I spent my Saturday in Nashville, with access to a few Indian grocery stores and decided to make the most of it. For dinner, I cooked a popular curry dish called “Chicken Vindaloo.” Vindaloo, or “Vindy” as it is sometimes called, is a spicy Indian dish that has a nice warming feel on a fall or winter day. It is often served in curry houses with bread and rice.
Chicken vindaloo is a curry stew featuring chicken with potatoes, onions, tomatoes and spices. To begin, I sautéed a large, chopped Spanish onion with garlic in some extra virgin olive oil, before adding about a pound and a half of boneless chicken and a teaspoon of curry powder and a half-teaspoon of a spice blend called garam masala. Garam masala is a blend of cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and a few other aromatic spices.
After a quick sauté, I covered the chicken to let it steam a bit more, and then drained the liquid. Curry sauce is unique from brand to brand, so I followed the suggestion on the side of the jar of the brand I purchased. This brand called for adding the entire jar along with a quarter cup of water. Taste the curry sauce before you add it, to see if it is spicy enough for your (and your family’s) taste. If desired, add additional curry powder to taste. Curry powder is again unique, some is bland, and some is fiery. There is no set proportion of heat from brand to brand, so again, this is entirely “to taste.” Turmeric is another slightly bitter spice that adds a good yellow color and additional flavor to offset the sweetness of the caramelized onions. Use about a quarter teaspoon of turmeric, or more, if desired. A half-teaspoon of ground cumin works well, along with sea salt and black pepper to taste. I also added my old friend, one bay leaf, for a little something extra into the vindy.
After adding the sauce and spices, I added another teaspoon of minced garlic and a pound of small new potatoes and a large tomato cut into large chunks. Stir the mixture and simmer for a good hour until the potatoes are well cooked and tender.
Indian dishes are traditionally served with rice. I selected a type of rice called “basmati.” Basmati is a fragrant grain that is common in Indian food. I sautéed the rice in a bit of olive oil to lightly toast the outside of the grain, which gives it a nuttier flavor. While sautéing, I added a half-teaspoon of curry powder and an eighth of a teaspoon of turmeric for extra zest. The store had basmati in an unbleached brown rice form. I love brown rice! Not only does it have more flavor, but is so much more healthful than white rice, as it has additional fiber. Boil or steam the rice according to the package directions once lightly toasted on the outside.
Steaming brown rice usually takes about 45 minutes, but may vary according to package directions. Like most stews, especially with new potatoes, a little extra simmering won’t hurt a thing. In the last ten minutes of cooking, uncover the vindaloo and bring to a gentle boil to thicken. When the potatoes are tender, the chicken fully cooked (it should be close to falling apart, but not quite) and the rice finished, then the meal is ready. I served it in large bowls, rice forming a bed, and the vindaloo served on top. Look for a type of Indian bread known as “Naan” to serve with the vindaloo. Naan is a round, flat, though fluffy bread that can be dipped in the vindaloo sauce.
Variations of vindaloo include using other meats, lamb or goat being common. Hindu mores proscribe the eating of beef, so use of beef is not traditional in vindaloo. A restaurant in Tampa served beef curries, though I found that the flavors did not match well. Perhaps the staff was not well versed in the preparation of beef. Perhaps beef and curry just don’t go well together. Vegetarians and vegans can substitute garbanzos or any type of squash for the meat.
This vindaloo serves between four to six and takes about an hour and a half to prepare. Good eating to all!