Goanese hot and pungent curry (vendaloo)

by Julie Sahni (from Classic Indian Cooking)

Vendaloo is the famous fiery-hot, mustard-laced dish from Goa, a state on the southwest coast of India. Traditionally, vendaloo is made with pork, but there are many variations prepared with beef, chicken, lamb, and even duck. Pork is rarely eaten in India, except by the Portuguese Christians in Goa. Even though some religious sects permit the eating of pork, it is not as highly prized a meat in India as lamb or chicken. Indians tend to regard the pig, who eats most anything from everywhere, with suspicion. Another reason for its lack of popularity is that the feed-corn needed to raise the best grade of pig for good pork is not grown in India on a wide enough scale to feed an animal population.

Vendaloo is made by first marinating the pork in a mixture of spices and seasonings. It is then cooked in the marinade along with such additional flavorings as fried onions and tamarind juice. The ingredient that imparts the authentic vendaloo flavor is mustard oil. Mustard oil in its raw form has a very strong smell that many people find unpleasant. Before Indians use it in cooking, it is put through a mellowing process. This is done by heating the oil to a very high temperature (the smoking point), which releases the pungent smell and vaporizes the oil. When cool, the mustard oil is ready for use.

For 4 persons:

Using a sharp boning knife, cut the meat off the bone. Reserve the bones. Trim all traces of fat from the meat and bones, and discard. Cut the meat into 3/4" cubes, and set aside.

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat, and add cumin and mustard seeds. Roast the seeds, stirring constantly, until the cumin seeds turn dark and the mustard seeds gray (about 3 minutes). Transfer to a small bowl and let cool briefly. Then grind to a fine powder. Set aside.

Put onion, garlic, ginger, vinegar, and oil into the container of an electric blender or food processor, and run the machine until the contents are a fine pasty puree.

Mix thoroughly to distribute the spice paste over the meat pieces. Cover and marinate for 8 hours, or refrigerate for 48 hours.

Put the tamarind pulp into a bowl, add the boiling water, and let it soak for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid, squeezing the pulp as much as possible, into another small bowl, and set aside. Discard the stringy fiber.


Cooking

When ready to cook the meat, heat the mustard oil over high heat in a large enamel-coated pan. When the oil begins to smoke, turn off the heat, and let it cool completely. (Skip this step if you are using a vegetable oil other than mustard.)

Heat the oil again over medium-high heat, and add onions. Fry them until they turn caramel brown (about 12 minutes), stirring constantly to prevent burning.

Reduce heat to medium, add turmeric, red pepper, and paprika. When the spices begin to sizzle and turn dark (about 15 seconds), add the meat and bones (reserve any marinade left in the bowl), and fry until the meat pieces are slightly seared and the oil begins to separate from the gravy (about 10 minutes).

Add tamarind juice, salt, and any remaining marinade, and bring it to a boil. Lower heat and cook, partially covered, until meat is thoroughly done and very tender (about 30 minutes). Carefully pick out the bones, and discard. Check for salt, and serve with rice.

Note. This dish improves with keeping. It may be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 4 days, or frozen. Defrost thoroughly before reheating. To reheat, simmer gently over low heat until warmed through.