I just discovered that vindaloo (the name of a curry I only recently dared try because of its reputation for extreme spiciness) is not of native Indian origin, but comes (according to Merriam-Webster, the OED having a similar but abbreviated etymology) “from Konkani vindalu, from Indo-Portuguese (Portuguese creole of India) vinh d’alho, literally, wine of garlic, from Portuguese vinho de alho.” (No wonder I liked the vindaloo, since I like both wine and garlic!)


  1. Transculturation at its finest.

  2. It reminds me of tikka masala, which was probably invented in the UK.

  3. Well, which kind of vindaloo did you have, Hat? As I understand it, the lamb or chicken dish served in British curry houses bears little resemblance to the original Portuguese-Goan pork recipe. For one thing, “aloo” has been reinterpreted as the Hindi for “potato”. See definition here, for instance.

  4. I’ve always wondered whether marmalade and Worcestershire sauce were Anglo-Indian. They have traditionally non-British ingredients. Ketchep I know is somehow Asian, but has to be from the modern age since tomatos only reached Asia with the Spanish.
    Both ketchup and Worcestershire sauce seem ultimately to be descended from fermented sauces made from fish.
    [Wikipedia tells me that marmalade is Mediterranean, tracable to the Portuguese “marmelada”, but Worcestershire sauce is indeed Anglo-Indian via one Lord Sandys.]
    Everything I know now comes from Wiki. [Not really]. There was one misprint in this one, though, “marshmelo” for “marmelo”.

  5. Well, which kind of vindaloo did you have, Hat?
    As I recall (it was months ago) it was a lamb vindaloo, but it certainly wasn’t at a British curry house — it was at a restaurant considered to have highly authentic recipes (and the vindaloo was particularly well reviewed, which is what impelled me to try it).
    The “aloo” thing is a great example of folk etymology!

  6. If it comes to that, all the really hot curries have to be subsequent to the integration of New World vegetables — peppers, specifically — into Indian cooking. Before that, India had only black pepper.
    As for catsup

  7. I’m pretty sure the word “ketchup” comes from the Malay/Indonesian “kecap”, which just means “sauce” and actually tastes more like soy sauce than ketchup (it doesn’t have any tomatoes in it).

  8. I’ve never had vindaloo with potatoes in it. It has vinegar in and is too hot for me, as far as I remember.

  9. Charles Perry says

    Vinho d’alho is made with wine and garlic in Portugal, but in the colonies, cooks replaced the unobtainable wine with vinegar. The essence of the Goanese vindaloo is not lots of chiles but the fact that the meat is marinated in vinegar and garlic (and spices — one is in India, after all); then it’s cooked in the marinade, which has preserved it in the tropical climate. There are Caribbean versions of vinho d’alho which marinate and then cook in truly heroic quantities of garlic and vinegar — three heads and two cups per pound of pork, in the Guyananese garlic pork — with the same preservative effect.

  10. Charles Perry,
    I doubt if the meat would ever be cooked through, if prepared the way you described it.
    Vinegar, wine, even lemon create acidic environment where nothing gets tender after hours and hours of boiling in if not being pre-cooked beforehead.
    I would assume the meat would be sauteed with spices and garlick until half-done, then put into a marinade, however strong, and left for a number of hours (probably even days, if refrigerated) to absorb the flavors of the mixture.
    The chemistry behind the process is universal for all cuisines in the world.

  11. This discussion is making me hungry.

  12. Ah, those Portuguese. You never know where their influence will surface. Of course, Japanese tenpura (English tempura) has been mentioned here before:
    But are we to think that it comes from tempora (many meanings, including perhaps “[particular] season [for which some dietary restriction is mandated]”; temporas are the Fridays of the Ember Weeks, apparently), or rather from tempero (“seasoning”)? Both are Portuguese words accented on the first syllable. Perhaps this is an instance of etymological overdetermination. Add to this mix the fact that tempora can mean “temple” (in the anatomical, not the religious sense).
    Mmm. I’m hungry too, now.

  13. Come now, it has been well established that tenpura comes from Taiwan Chinese tianbula 甜不辣, “sweet-not-spicy/hot” (I am joking, of course, but this is the real “transcription”).

  14. Siganus Sutor says

    Noetica : « Ah, those Portuguese. You never know where their influence will surface. »
    Creole — “Portuguese creole of India” — was mentioned in LH’s post. Some scholars think that a Portuguese-based creole acted as a lingua franca during the time of Portuguese trade, including slave trade, around Africa. Therefore even if a particular creole isn’t supposed to have anything to do with Portuguese, you may find words of ‘Lusitanian’ origin in its lexicon. Right now I can only think of the vegetable called margose, (from amargoso, bitter) in Mauritius and Réunion, islands where a French-based creole is spoken, but there are probably other examples. (Maybe this one: capor, i.e. a well-built person.)
    The Portuguese having travelled a lot since the time of Henry the Navigator, it is not so surprising after all to find words with a taste of Portugal in various and faraway places around the globe.

  15. According to my AHD (3rd ed), “The source of our word ‘ketchup’ may be the Malay word ‘kechap’ [uh, there’s a line over the e, but I’m a little ludditey], possibly taken into Malay from the Cantonese dialect of Chinese. Kechap… referred to a kind of sauce, but a sauce without tomatoes; rather, it contained fish brine, herbs, and spices. [Anyone else thinking this sounds like Thai nam pla?] The sauce seems to have eimgrated to Europe by way of sailors, where it was made with locally available ingredients such as the juice of mushrooms or walnuts. At some point, when the juice of tomatoes was first used, ketchup as we know it was born. However, it is important to realize that in the 18th and 19th centuries ‘ketchup’ was a generic term for sauces whose only common ingredient was vinegar. The word is first recorded in English in 1690 in the form ‘catchup,’ in 1711 in the form ‘ketchup,’ and 1730 in the form ‘catsup.'”
    My Chinese-American family has a running joke about how the Chinese invented EVERYTHING (because the list of Chinese inventions is pretty impressive and because–well, do all of your family’s jokes make sense?). Guess we can add ketchup to the list.

  16. My Chinese-American family has a running joke about how the Chinese invented EVERYTHING
    That attitude is rather frequent among Greeks as well, for similar reasons. One of the few things I found really funny in Nia Vardalos’ My Big Fat Greek Wedding was the father who insists that every English word had a Greek origin (‘kimono’ comes from ‘heimonas’, “winter”, etc.). A friend of mine argued that Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni was of Greek descent, because “Mastro-Yanni” (it didn’t occur to him that the prefix “mastro-” is precisely a loan word from Italian). In my family, we briefly thought that French anthropologist Georges Condominas was “one of us”, i.e. a Pontic (‘kontominas’ or “shortmonth” is the Pontic name for February).

  17. Lizzie Collingham’s interesting _Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerers_ is exactly about this topic.

  18. Charles Perry says

    Re the cookability of marinated meat: Here’s a vindaloo recipe from “Indian Cookery for All Lands,” E.P. Veerasawmy (written by a famous London restaurateur, probably in the Twenties)
    Make a pickle of the following:
    1 medium-sized onion and 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
    2 tablespoonfuls of ground corianders
    1 dessertspoonful of ground turmeric
    1 teaspoonful of ground cummin seed
    1 teaspoonful of ground chillies
    1 teaspoonful of ground ginger
    1 teaspoonful of ground mustard seed
    1 saltspoonful of groudn fenugreek
    1 saltspoonful of ground pepper
    With a tablespoonful or more of vinegar, and a tablspoonful of thick tamarind pulp made with vinegar. Add to it 1 pound of fat pork cut up in convenient pieces. Stand aside for 24 hours.
    To cook: Turn this pickled meat and whatever liquor there may be in it into a roomy saucepan containing rather more ghee or other fat than usual. Cover the pan closely and simmer until the meat is cooked.

  19. Mr.Perry,
    I’ll for you to experiment with this recipe; you might find that the famous chef might omit some important step. Afraid your beard will grow waste-length while you’re letting the dish “simmer until the meat is cooked”.
    Here’s recipe that proves my (or rather, commonsense) theory. Here’s another.
    Also, note that your recipe calls for about 2 tablespoons of acid per pound of fat pork; not the same as the Carribean versions you described before, with 2-3 cups of vinegar per pound of pork.

  20. Charles Perry says

    I’ve cooked this vindaloo recipe dozens of times. I’ve also cooked the Guyanese garlic pork, for which the meat is cut into egg-sized pieces marinated 1-3 days with the vinegar and garlic. To cook, you bring it to the boil, lower the heat and then simmer until it’s tender, which takes 30 to 45 minutes. It does come out with a strange color, but it’s perfectly tender.

  21. 3 days? You could skip cooking the meat at all after that, then.
    It became a preserve, totally different species. The word “pickle” in your recipe should have alerterd me.
    In any case, cudos for cooking (why is that when men cook they attempt either incredibly complicated and tedious or the crudest? But that’s OT.)

  22. Charles Perry:
    Veerasawmy? Yes! I’ve had a little book of his for years, and esteem it above all others for Indian cookery. So wise and direct. I must retrieve it from the box to which I appear to have consigned it.

  23. Siganus Sutor:
    In light of Jimmy Ho’s observations, we might examine the origins of this word ”creole”. On top of the languages tagged by it contributing to the gourmet’s lexicon, the word itself is thought to come from Greek κρεας (“meat”) and Spanish olla, whose meanings are exhibited by the always reliable SOED:
    1 In Spain and Spanish-speaking countries: an earthen jar or pot used for cooking etc.; a dish of (esp. stewed) meat and vegetables cooked in this. Cf. OLIO n. 1, OLLA PODRIDA 1. E17.
    So, a meat dish: probably a rather oily one, if we are to take SOED’s redirection to OLIO at all seriously. Possibly resembling a vinh d’alho, to judge from the recipes recommended above.
    So vindaloo gives rise to creole, rather than the reverse. Who would have thought it?
    Ah, the Greeks. We may not trust them dona ferentes; but they got around almost as much as the Portuguese, nicht wahr?

  24. The Indians had long pepper, as well as black pepper, before the Portuguese arrived with all the New World ingredients.
    This origin for “vindaloo” delights me – and is another striking reminder of the futility of Indians trying to eradicate innovations from Hindi, like trying to replace the Portuguese-derived “Bombay” with “Mumbai”, even while many of its residents still call it Bombay. If they tried to scrub out influences from invaders, where does it end? Portuguese? Persian? Indo-European? Or try to divine what the languages were before the Dravidian incursions from the Indus Valley? The name Hindi itself is a Farsi word. And English is only going to become ever more embedded with Hindi for the foreseeable future.
    As for Ketchup: I bought some “real authentic American ketchup!” in Belgium once, where you cannot find ketchup for the life of you. It turned out to resemble a totally bland salsa.
    Funny how Vindaloo came through Konkani. A friend and co-worker of mine is a native Konkani speaker – but has been in the States a long time, became a U.S. citizen a few years ago, has no family within a thousand miles, is married to a Brazilian, and is now at the point where he says it’s hard for him to remember how to speak in Konkani – language homogenization going on right down the hall from me.

  25. Siganus Sutor says

    And English is only going to become ever more embedded with Hindi for the foreseeable future.
    And vice versa?
    ‘The world’ll speak in Hinglish’ (Times of India).

  26. Siganus Sutor says

    Noetica, the word Creole comes from the Greek word for meat? Hmmm… if that is true, thank God Creole-speakers tend to drink rum rather then gin.

  27. Siganus Sutor says

    … “drink rum rather than gin”. Or, rather, drink neither rum nor gin if one wants to speak properly.

  28. I guess for innocent visitors unfamiliar with the deadpan humor we indulge in around here, I should point out that creole does not in fact come from Greek; the origin of Spanish criollo and Portuguese crioulo is unknown, though the OED suggests the Spanish may be from criar ‘to breed’ (from Latin creāre ‘to create’).

  29. And English is only going to become ever more embedded with Hindi for the foreseeable future.
    And vice versa?

    Hopefully. I’m doing my part. If only to be able to impress Aishwarya Rai, should the opportunity ever arise.

  30. Siganus Sutor says

    For the opportunity to arise, you may well have to go to Amitabh Bachchan’s place, since his son is said to have a romance with the actress. I don’t know if it is linked to some age difference, but the first superstar I would have thought of impressing would have been Madhuri Dixit. A has-been already?
    It’s probably more in English than in Hinglish, but if you haven’t read it already you could try Shashi Tharoor’s Show Business — and have a good laugh at Bollywood’s expense.

  31. In a futher bit of cross-cultural culinary transmission, sailors from the Japanese fishing fleets working off the coast of Mexico brought their Portuguese-derived %i(tempura) cooking techniques to the shores of Baja California.
    Local taco-shack operators combined the tempura-cooked fish with shredded cabbage (one of the few vegetables that keeps well in the Baja heat), thus creating the “Baja Fish Taco”.
    Vacationers from America brought a taste for “authentic Baja Fish Tacos” back to LA, and they’ve subsequently become a staple of local fast-food culture.
    I’m hoping for a local taco stand to start advertising “Fish Tacos With Authentic Portuguese-Style Fish.”

  32. OK, I report:
    just returned from a wonderful dinner with friends in a place called “Spice market”, in a Meat District, where I was delighted to find “Pork vindaloo” on the menu. Of course I ordered it, and of course it was delicious.
    The waitor couldn’t opine on the number of days the meat was marinated in wine and/or vinegar, though. He recommended to try Duck under a tamarind sauce instead. Which we did, to everyone’s joy. The duck was objectively better.

  33. Siganus Sutor says

    Glen B. : « brought their Portuguese-derived %i(tempura) cooking techniques to the shores of Baja California (…) thus creating the “Baja Fish Taco” ».
    Good Heaven ! Some have been thinking for years that their local baja (or bhaja, or badja, as it could also be written) originally came from India!
    Regarding vindaloo, only now do I realise that in our curry-loving country we probably turned it into vindaille, or vindaye, which could well be the French equivalent “vin d’ail” to the Indo-Portuguese “vinh d’alho”. If that were really the case, I would find it amazing!

  34. Veerasawmy? Yes! I’ve had a little book of his for years, and esteem it above all others for Indian cookery.
    I have one of his books and I’m always astounded by the way he suddenly goes vague at the most important place in the recipe. For example:
    (Following a detailed list of spices specified in exact amounts) “Take a sufficient quantity of fish.”
    “Cook until done.”
    “Prepare the poppadums in the usual way.”
    At one time, “ketchup” in English referred to a mushroom-based sauce. There’s an English folk-song that has the lines:
    “She said, I’m gathering musherooms
    To make my Mummy ketchup-oh”
    In my youth I remember seeing bottles of mushroom ketchup, and it seems to me that the tomato-based product was then always called “tomato sauce”.
    Or in Australia, “dead horse”, by rhyming slang.
    “Dead horse” was an old sailors’ term for salt pork. There was a sea chantey on the topic.

  35. To The New Yorker:
    According to The Food Network’s Alton Brown, Worcestershire sauce is descended from an ancient Roman sauce called garum.

  36. Rejoice with me, for I have found my long lost Veerasawmy. Turns out to be the very same as Charles Perry’s (Indian Cookery for All Lands, 1956; this may not be the actual year of composition, since Veerasawmy is said to have founded a company in 1896). I am pleased to see once more the annotation on the cover: The only Authoritative Work in the English Language. (Let’s keep that in mind from now on.) And looking through the final pages of this cheap Indian edition I find advertisements for other worthy treatises, among them, and accompanied by two attractive female figures in silhouette: Sex Efficiency Exercises for Women, by one T.H. van de Velde MD (Rs. 3.75). One understands the link immediately.

  37. …an ancient Roman sauce called garum
    Isn’t that a notoriously evil-smelling fish sauce, avidly slurped from one end the Imperium to the other? I must look up my Pantropheion (wherever in God’s broad kitchen that has lodged itself, the while).

  38. Congratulations on finding your Veerasawmy! The first edition appears to be 1936. And yes, garum was a fish sauce, presumably comparable to nuoc mam, nam pla, and the others popular in Southeast Asia.

  39. I now have to hand my Pantropheon (not -eion, as I now see), facsimile of the 1853 edition. This splendid work by Alexis Soyer has as its full title Pantropheon, or a history of food and its preparation in ancient times, embellished with forty-one engravings illustrating the greatest gastronomic marvels of antiquity. Indeed, it deals copiously with antiquity, and has many references to Seneca, Plutarch, and a host of others. But it also takes us up to the “present”, including a long account of the truly Olympian banquet Soyer prepared for the new Queen Victoria.
    We shall avoid distractions such as the ancient gourmets’ joyful discovery of the “considerable adipose appendage” at the base of the flamingo’s tongue, or the manner of packing ortolans in flour for transport from Florence and Bologna to Rome (“the enormous price of which irritated rather than discouraged gluttony”). We turn to the three full pages devoted to garum. There were many variants, most of them involving the viscera and other parts of fish steeped in brine till they decomposed. Here’s one:
    “In the time of Pliny, mackerel was preferred, of which they employed either the gills or intestines, or only the blood, directly the fish left the water, and while yet living. They thus obtained a precious liquid, and which the care necessary for its production rendered so dear, that eight pints of it cost no less than from fifteen to twenty pounds.”
    “The blood and entrails of the tunny fish, mixed with salt in a vase, produced also a most elaborate garum. A hole was made in the vessel at the expiration of two months, and the rich seasoning flowed from it.”
    There are also quick dodges for making ersatz garum in emergencies, and details of its use. There is nothing, however, about its application as a medicine for horses, mentioned in SOED.
    For more information, see this blog, where we also find evidence of Charles Perry’s activities.

  40. Can I actually know what are the real ingredients as “vindaloo” as Im confused.
    I really need to know seriously as Ive serious migraine which attacked me almost everyday.
    So… I need your advise

  41. Currently being in South-East Asia, I can confirm that the sauces called kecap in Malay are very different from what we call “ketchup” in the West. Western ketchup is called sos tomato in Malay.

  42. Just looked up Veerasawmy and found this (emphasis added):

    Veeraswamy is an Indian restaurant in London, located at 99-101 Regent Street. It was opened in 1926 by Edward Palmer, a retired Indian Army officer and the grandson of an English general and an Indian princess. It is the oldest surviving Indian restaurant in the United Kingdom. In its early years, Veeraswamy served Anglo-Indian cuisine, but in recent decades, based on the popularity of authentic Indian food in the UK, has served a menu of regional Indian cuisine, including dishes from Punjab, Lucknow, Kashmir, and Goa. Edward Palmer used the name E. P. Veeraswamy for his food business and the book; Veeraswamy was his grandmother’s family name. Initially it was spelled Veerasawmy, it became Veeraswamy because of a printing error.

    Typos everywhere!

  43. Indian Cookery for All Lands, 1956; this may not be the actual year of composition, since Veerasawmy is said to have founded a company in 1896

    From the same Wikipedia article: “In 1936 Veeraswamy published a recipe book, Indian Cookery for Use in All Countries, which is still in print today.”

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