Most everyone with even a passing acquaintance with Indian cuisine will be familiar with the very popular Vindaloo style curry, and regular readers will recall the loose interpretation of the basic dish I made with my Gomanchala Pork Curry some time ago.
The commercial Vindaloo spice powder you see pictured above was a gift from a visitor this past summer. I have not come across the Dunya brand before (they are an Indian company) but I note that their packaging is very similar to that of Sharwood’s, whose Tandoori Masala I reviewed last year. In any event, I thought that the best way to test this product would be to try out the recipe the manufacturers thoughtfully provide on the label of the container…
The label, somewhat unusually, actually lists all the spice ingredients and these include: Coriander, Chilies, Black Pepper, Cumin, Turmeric, Garlic, Salt, Ginger, Onion and Cardamom.
The aroma, when one opens the container is a little flat and disappointing as the only recognizable fragrance is the slightly dusty and pungent smell of dried chili. There is a vague note of dried spices lurking in the background but nothing that can be particularly identified. Tasting the raw powder results in mostly the same sort of sensory experience, although the faint, almost lemony quality of coriander seed comes through. Beyond that, the dominant impact is the chili heat, which is quite strong.
This is the recipe given on the label. It is, in my opinion, a pretty typical sort of Vindaloo preparation.
I followed the label instructions for making the marinade and, for this test, I chose to use a teaspoon of salt. The marinade is less a paste than I would usually expect in making this sort of dish and it made me curious as to the eventual thickness of the curry to be produced.
I chose pork for my ‘meat of choice’. Pork is not widely eaten in India generally, but it is actually quite commonly used in Goa where the Vindaloo originates. I ended up marinating for a little bit longer than the hour called for on the label as I was engaged with other things as well, but I doubt this will significantly impact the test at all.
The label recipe calls for two chopped onions, which is a little vague. I used one fairly large Spanish onion that I sliced (rather than just chopping) to yield about 3 cups or so. My first minor deviation from the recipe was to sauté the onion in butter rather than oil and I also added the garlic and ginger pastes just after the onions became soft rather after having browned. I didn’t have any tomato puree as called for, so I substituted 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce instead and just cooked it down for a minute or two longer.
The recipe is silent on the issue, but I removed the meat from the marinade and browned it briefly in the pot before adding liquid. I allowed this all to cook for 15 minutes as called for in the recipe. The heat level is not specified but I kept it a low medium so that it bubbled with moderate vigor. As you can probably see, at the end of this cooking time the ‘sauce’ is still quite thin. Frankly, had I been making this meal without following the recipe, I probably would have been inclined to stir in a little flour after adding the meat and cooking off the rawness before adding any liquid.
I added the potato and the additional cup of water as directed. I also added some slivered sweet red pepper as this will add nicely to the color without radically altering the final flavor. The recipe says to simmer for 10 minutes until the meat is tender but this is barely enough time to make the potato tender, even cut in as small dice as I have done. I kept things at a slow simmer for about 30 minutes.
The last instruction in the recipe is to serve hot with rice and the implication seems to be that you do so immediately after the final simmering. Instead, I transferred the curry to a serving casserole and allowed it to cool for re-heating later. Aside from the practicalities of my meal schedule on this occasion, allowing curries or stews to cool at least once invariably improves their flavor and I do not believe that this process will skew the test results to any degree.
Despite my apprehensions, the curry actually thickened quite nicely in the end. A little more sauce would actually be preferable but if more liquid were used some sort of thickening method would be definitely required.
I served the curry over rice with sambols of chopped raw onion, green pepper, tomato and peanuts and the result was very nice. It could have been a bit more garlicky and with more of a vinegar tang, but this could easily be remedied in the recipe and does not reflect on the spice blend which was actually pretty decent.
The Dunya Masala definitely yields a fairly hot result. It reached the limits of my heat tolerance but my wife thought it just right. The complexity of the spice blend was more apparent once it was cooked and we both agreed it was nicely balanced. For those who don’t have the time or inclination to make their own spice blend for a Vindaloo, this product is a pretty decent one to have on hand…