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  • Ednold

Do Try This At Home 6/8/20

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

When I was a kid there was a fish and chip shop down the hill from our home called, very cleverly, The Plaice. I didn’t appreciate the brilliance of that play on words at the time; a place is a location, plaice is a type of fish. So, thanks to The Plaice, we could go someplace and get some plaice. Genius. We didn’t patronize The Plaice very often, but occasionally my dad, as a treat, would show up with a small bundle of out-of-date newspapers containing hot, smelly, delicious fish and chips that we would douse with vinegar and devour. Today The Plaice is still doing business in that same spot, but over the past several decades chippies have been in decline, partially due to the explosion of Indian takeout options. Long before the end of the Raj many of the British who had spent time in India returned home with a taste for spicy Indian food. In 1981 a wise man wrote that “Yesterday’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper”. The practice of wrapping food in newspaper is no longer legal, but if it was, yesterday’s news might now be lining the bottom of a bucket of vindaloo.

The key distinguishing characteristic of British vindaloo is that it’s hot. Spicy hot, to the extreme. It’s served in Indian restaurants and curry houses and is generally considered an Indian curry dish. Technically speaking, though, it is neither Indian nor a curry. Vindaloo originated in Portugal, where it went by the name of carne de vinha d’alhos. Say what you will about the English language, but don’t try to convince me that carne de vinha d’alhos is a better name than vindaloo. About 500 years ago the Portuguese took their dish of pork marinated in wine and garlic with them on their travels to India. The Indians didn’t have any wine but they did have palm vinegar for marinating and lots of spices that they added to the recipe over the years, including chili peppers made available by the burgeoning trade with the Americas.

The British brought Indian food back with them and, over time, British vindaloo lost much of the nuanced flavor of the original Portuguese and Indian versions. By the time carne de vinha d’alhos had morphed into vindaloo, the practice of marinating the meat had been abandoned and the flavor of the more subtle spices had been overtaken by the power of the peppers. It eventually became associated with the game of soccer because anyone who ate it would necessarily have to wash it down with a few cold drinks. For those looking for one, vindaloo became a convenient excuse to over-indulge.

The soccer/vindaloo link is so prominent that since 1998 the unofficial anthem of the England national soccer team has been “Vindaloo”, as written and performed by the band Fat Les. That entire stadiums full of English people support their team by singing about a type of “Indian” food is remarkable, and now that you’re aware perhaps you’d like to see what all of the fuss is about. With the resumption of the season next Wednesday, the 17th, after a hiatus of over three months, what better time to try it and see for yourself? We here at CPHC are happy to help. And while you’re at it, why not join me in tuning in to the mid-day Arsenal game that day? They’re taking on reigning champs Man City in an otherwise empty stadium. They’ll be needing all the support they can get.

The American vindaloo I’ve tasted has been all over the temperature scale, and I’ve found that there is a happy medium between the taste-killing heat of the hottest and the blandness of the more mild recipes. This recipe is the one I use at home and it’s quick and simple. I always use chicken but you can also use the traditional pork, beef, tofu or whatever kind of meat you prefer. This is just about perfect for my own taste buds but you may have to kick it up or drop it down a notch for yourself. It’s hot but not unpleasantly so, and you can still taste all of those spices you’ve added to it. Just have a cold drink waiting nearby.

Feel free to add or subtract a little of this or that to your own taste but do not – DO NOT – skip any steps in this recipe. After you’ve made your first batch you are allowed to skip step #1 only, but the first time you make it all steps are essential. They are all crucial to tasty vindaloo and to omit any steps will ruin an otherwise good batch. Happy cooking!

1. Pull up the YouTube video for The Verve’s song Bittersweet Symphony. Watch it on the biggest screen available. A phone will work in a pinch but for best results use a large screen TV. Attempt to absorb the meaning of the thought-provoking lyrics, then contemplate the fact that the band made a mere pittance from this giant hit due to a legal dispute with the Rolling Stones’ old manager. It’s a long, sad story to go with a long, even sadder, song. In the end Richard Ashcroft, the guy in the video and the guy who wrote and sang the song had this to say about the whole experience: “It’s almost a self-fulfilling thing with the song’s lyrics. You’re not going to just sing about it and be a rock’n’roll star and make loads of money without dealing with the reality that there’s vipers and snakes and vampires all around trying to suck your blood.” True dat, Richard. They're everywhere, sometimes the last place you would expect to find them.

2. Pull up the YouTube video for Fat Les’ big hit, Vindaloo, and watch it. Again, the bigger the screen the better.

As you compare and contrast these two videos you may notice that they were both filmed on the exact same stretch of the exact same street. Of the Vindaloo song, writer Alex James has said “It’s an opportunity to be stupid on a massive scale.” And who doesn’t like to be massively stupid once in a while?

There is a lesson here in these two videos: Something about how the same route can lead to either misery or enjoyment. The same street that represents a lifetime of pain and futility for one person can represent a day of happiness and pleasure for others. And both realities can coexist and are equally legitimate. Don’t ask me what it all means or even what the hell I’m talking about right now. Ednold is just here to make fascinating observations and let you all work them out for yourselves.

3. Forget all that philosophical stuff and just repeat step 2 until the tune has completely squirmed its way into the depths of your cranium. This should only require about two viewings but it’s impossible to over-view this video so continue as needed.

4. Gather your ingredients together. This MUST be done while singing the Vindaloo song. Humming or whistling are acceptable substitutes if done loudly. All others on the premises during preparation of this meal MUST sing along also. Nobody gets to taste the vindaloo unless they have participated. This is not difficult. Didn’t catch all the words? No problem. 90% of the song is nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah. Even the most tone-deaf and vocally challenged among us can do that and it’s hard to sing all of the parts on your own so the more people you can recruit for this the better.

These ingredients are all pretty common with the exception of the tamarind paste. Depending on where you live it may be a little hard to find. I get mine at the local Asian food shop. The kind I get requires removal of seeds and fibrous parts of the pulp which takes a little effort (google it) but you can also find it ready-to-use or you can make your own from scratch if you’re one of those people.

2-3 lbs. of meat, cubed

Salt and pepper


3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 cups yellow onions, chopped fine

2 Tblspns ginger powder

2 tspns cumin powder

2 tspns ground yellow mustard seed

1 tspn ground cinnamon

½ tspn ground cloves

1 Tblspn turmeric

1 ½ tspns cayenne pepper

1 Tblspn paprika

2 tspns lemon juice

2 Tblspns white vinegar

1 tspn brown sugar

2 tspns salt

2 cups water

2 Tblspns tamarind paste

5. While continuing to sing, measure out the ginger, cumin, mustard, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, cayenne and paprika together into a small bowl and set aside.

6. Salt and pepper the meat. Heat a large frying pan and brown the meat in the butter. You may have to do this in two batches.

7. Remember to keep singing the vindaloo song

8. Remove meat to a six-quart stove-top covered casserole, leaving any fat in the pan.

9. Add the garlic and onion to the pan and sauté until golden brown.

10. Continue singing the vindaloo song.

11. Add garlic and onion to the casserole along with the dry ingredients from step 5.

12. Sauté all for a few minutes then add all the remaining ingredients.

13. Cover and simmer until meat is tender – 45 minutes or so. Stir occasionally. Partially remove the lid for the last 10 minutes to allow thickening. I like mine a little soupy so I skip that part. Continuous singing is not required during this time but it can’t hurt and it’s stuck in your head anyway so you might as well.

14. Serve on a bed of rice and garnish with your favorite green, leafy herb. This step most certainly DOES require more singing.

Serves 4-6 people.

Though I don’t have any scientific proof to back me up, I believe that continuing to sing the song throughout your meal is the only way to bring out the full flavor of the vindaloo. I do have plenty of anecdotal evidence that this will cause your significant other to sigh heavily, roll her eyes, and call you a dork. A small price to pay, I’d say, to enhance your gastronomic experience.

Bon Appetite, and Go Arsenal!  Or, as they say in India, कृपया भोजन का आनंद लीजिये, और शस्त्रागार जाओ!

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2 comentarii

08 iun. 2020

Now you've done it! One of my housemates won't rest until we make some vindaloo while the one with the tender tummy won't eat it.

You never cease to amaze us with your range of topics. I loved it.

(We'll let you know how it turns out)


08 iun. 2020

I have yet to sing a single note of your song and already I know more about vindaloo than I ever expected. Obviously Ednold's interests range further afield than I realized.

Though I do remember the greasy newspapers from the Plaice Place, who else do I know who could explain a doty English/Indian dish in such delicious detail?

Strangely, after a season of high-school football your vindaloo detour seems perfectly appropriate. Personally, I will probably hold out for Mr. Clucker.

I don't often associate recipes with Elvis C or classy videos like Fat Les.....which I had never heard before. Fact is, it's upbeat, but a little trashy for we sophisticated Tottenham Hotspur types.

Well done.

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