I made this recently for a dinner party. I’m tempted to call it a vindaloo but then my Parsi and Goan friends might get angry. It’s generally in the vindaloo family in that it involves pork, vinegar and garlic but it is not a vindaloo: this is me messing around with a pork shoulder with general taste memories of proper vindaloo in mind. Proper vindaloo, in case you’re wondering, is made with pork. It is not made with lamb or beef or chicken as Indian restaurants in the US, afflicted by the curse of complete substitutability, may have led you to believe. Sweet, fatty pork is the meat for vindaloo—the only acceptable subsitute is duck. And the other necessary ingredients of a proper vindaloo, as indicated by the name, and as many North Indians also do not know, are vinegar and garlic. If I had a dollar for every time someone has told me that a vindaloo is made with vinegar and potato (alu/aloo in most North Indian languages) I’d be able to buy some Yamazaki 18 at the current price.
Anyway, I don’t know why I’m going on about vindaloo as this is not one—I believe I may have already noted this. What it is though is tangy, sweet and just a bit spicy and if your tastebuds and soul are not dead you will like it. It’s best made a day ahead.
- 3 lbs (approx) pork shoulder, cubed.
- A lot of dried red chillies, ground into a powder. (I used 4 guajillos and about 10 dried thai chillies and tossed in 2 tblspns of Kashmiri chilli powder as well.)
- The following ground to a coarse powder: 1 inch piece cinnamon/cassia bark, 3-4 cloves, 1 tblspn cumin seeds, 1tbslpn Sichuan peppercorns, 1 tblspn black peppercorns, 1 tspn turmeric powder.
- 1.5 tblspns worth of garlic and about as much ginger, crushed in a mortar.
- 4-6 tblspns of vinegar (apple cider or Chinese black vinegar are best).
- 1 large red onion (mega-American size), cut in two and sliced.
- 1.5 tblspns dark brown sugar
- 1.5 tblspns vegetable oil.
- Mix the ground chillies and ground spices and add the vinegar and crushed ginger-garlic to make a thick paste (add more vinegar if necessary, but don’t let it become thin or pourable).
- Coat the cubed pork with the thick spice paste and marinate in the fridge for at least 6-8 hours and preferably overnight.
- Remove the marinated pork from the fridge an hour before cooking.
- Heat the oil in a large pan and add the sliced onions.
- Let the onions cook over medium heat until they wilt and begin to caramelize.
- Raise the heat and add the pork with all the marinade and the salt. Cook for a few minutes over high heat, stirring all the while.
- Add the sugar and mix in.
- Cover the pan and cook over low heat till the pork is tender (less than 60 minutes).
- Cool and let it “cure” in the fridge overnight. Or if you’re greedy just eat some right away with steamed rice.
- This looks like a lot of chillies but neither the guajillos nor the Kashmiri chillies are hot–they’re there for the colour. Still, while it’s not a mild dish it shouldn’t be painfully hot either: you want the heat to be in balance with the tang of the vinegar and the sweetness from the pork, onions and brown sugar. (This is true of proper vindaloo too, by the way.) Feel free to adjust the number of chillies down if you’re nervous.
- I used shoulder but any cut of pork is good as long as it’s not too lean. And if you have lean chops or something you can always add some cubed belly to fix matters.
- If the pork doesn’t release enough moisture for it to cook in its own juices you can judiciously add 1/2 a cup or so of hot water—but wait 20-30 minutes to do this (you don’t want the end result to be runny).
- As noted it’s best at least a day after it’s made as the pork sort of “pickles” in the vinegar.
- I don’t garnish this but there’d be nothing wrong with a bit of chopped cilantro/dhania over the top.
Enjoy! And if you make it let me know how it turns out for you.