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How spicy *is* vindaloo?

How does it compare to, say, Melinda's 4X Reserve or CaJohn's Talon?

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  1. I don't understand the question.

    Vindaloo is a paste that is easy to make yourself, so you can control the heat.

    I use:

    4 dried birds-eye chilli
    a bunch of mint and/or corriander (cilantro)
    A knob of fresh ginger
    A couple of cloves of garlic
    a couple of tomatoes.

    Whizz all together in a blender with enough white vinegar to turn into a paste.

    13 Replies
    1. re: purple goddess

      4X Reserve and Talon are fairly potent hot sauces. Just wanting to compare their heat to how vindaloo is typically served in a restaurantl.

      1. re: aynrandgirl

        Vindaloo is normally quite hot, probably as hot a dish as you're going to get in an Indian restaurant. That said, you can always ask the restaurant to tone it down a bit.

        1. re: Ellen

          I've been told by more than one Indian chef that it's insulting to ask him to "tone down the heat" in vindaloo. If it's not very spicy, it's not vindaloo! Lord knows there are plenty of mild Indian dishes for those who are frightened of heat. Please don't spoil it for the rest of us by complaining about food being too spicy, because eventually a restaurant will either "tone it down" for everyone or take it off the menu altogether.

          1. re: Tom Steele

            I never ask anyone to tone the heat down in vindaloo or anything else so I don't spoil it for anyone. But others do have a problem with heat and send too hot food back to the kitchen all the time, which is why it's so hard to get spicy foods here in many Asian restaurants. So often they don't believe us when we ask for it hot. However, given the narrow profit margins, a restaurant is better off knowing up front what someone's heat tolerance is than having to take back a prepared dish, which then just goes to waste. As the original poster indicated, they had no idea the level of heat in a vindaloo, and until you've had it, you wouldn't know. At minimum a restaurant who receives that request can steer the person to something less hot.

        2. re: aynrandgirl

          What Ellen says is true. But vindaloo isn't a hot sauce, it's like a gravy, like other curry sauces that Indian foods are cooked in. I think the comparison with hot sauces may not be fair.

          Here in England, vindaloo is the "atomic" hot item on the Indian menu. Some restaurants boast about how hot their vindaloo is, and some people love to eat it as a show of machismo. Often, heat is the main concern and the curry isn't really all that good! A good vindaloo is delicious, though--just bring a lot of tissues.

          1. re: Kagey

            What Kagey says is very true. Years ago DH and I were in London and went to an Indian restaurant. I ordered a shrimp dish Vindaloo and DH kept going on and on about how I really really liked my food spicy. I was trying to shut him up but he wouldn't. Anyway, my back was to the kitchen so DH says to me "I wonder what's going on, all the kitchen staff has come out". Then my food was served. I had enough sense not to mush the sauce through my rice, etc. as I would normally do and just took a bite of the shrimp. It was sooooo very hot (I love to eat jalapenos, habanero, etc. etc.) but I grinned and said "oh how wonderful". I ate all the shrimp but told them I wasn't having the rice as I was "on a diet". Pride is funny isn't it? Now DH knows to keep his mouth shut!!! Every time he starts in I remind him of the Indian restaurant in London lol!!!

            1. re: Linda VH

              years ago in portland, oregon, i ordered vindaloo at an indian restaurant. at the time i lived in olympia, wa, and it was nearly impossible to get a spicy dish unless you cooked it yourself. in portland, i told the waitress i wanted it spicy, and stressed it. at the time i was also regularly going to korea, where the food can be incendiary, if not quite up there with thailand and india. the waitress looked at me and said, "are you sure? chef makes it really spicy." i doubted the waitress mainly because she, and most of the patrons, were white americans, and i wondered if the kitchen catered to an american clientele in terms of toning down heat. my friend chimed in and said "he likes it spicy."

              halfway through my vindaloo, after my tongue went almost numb from the fire, my eyes were dilated, my scalp running with sweat, and i started feeling intense euphoria. i was actually high on vindaloo, and kept giggling for the rest of the night. it was by far the spiciest thing i've ever eaten in my life.

              i wish i could steer any portlanders to the restaurant, but i can't even begin to remember the name of the place, or the neighborhood. i felt ridiculous for my bragging manner, and for judging the place based on the very pale pacific northwesterners who made up the majority of the clientele. but after years of not being taken seriously, i had to push it. OW.

              1. re: augustiner

                I remember going to a restaurant in Philadelphia twenty-five years ago, and we said "hot like the cooks eat it." It was hot alright, and as the food was being served, the cooks were looking out the kitchen window. We got numb and intoxicated by the spices. It's actually kind of scary to feel your entire face numb up.

                1. re: augustiner

                  my girl friend and i had a vindaloo yesterday, and felt very high as well !, (it's by looking up those words that i actually found this web site :)

                  on topic: i think vindaloo should be around 30 000 scovilles, that's about as spicy as pure thai red peper diluted with twice the amount of tomato (thai red pepers are 100k),

              2. re: Kagey

                As you can tell from the sauces I listed, I like searing heat. On the other hand, a 50k scoville sauce like Dave's Insanity is still beyond me.

                1. re: aynrandgirl

                  You mean 500k scoville for Dave's Insanity.

                  1. re: JMF

                    Most of the web sources I've read have the original Dave's Insanity Sauce rated at about 50k Scoville units. Where are you getting 500k?

                    1. re: aynrandgirl

                      I have a bottle right here of the private reserve dave's insanity sauce red savina and it says 500,000 scoville units. The regular insanity sauce must be the 50,000 scoville sauce.

          2. It's typically the hottest dish on an Indian menu (unless you're lucky enough to find a restaurant serving Mirch ka Salan, which is basically stewed hot chilies). However, the heat varies quite a bit, and it can be disappointing in many places, even after you tell the waiter you really like it hot.

            Having said that, I wholehearted agree with the comments above regarding vindaloo in the UK. I'm a pretty well-seasoned chilihead, but I've had trouble finishing some vindaloos I've had over there, even in simple neighborhood curry joints. I've seldom had one anywhere in the US that compares.

            One thing you should be aware of - the heat in a vindaloo is of the sort that builds and builds as you eat, as opposed to Mexican-style heat that tends to blast you at first and then calm down between bites. At least that's my impression.

            2 Replies
            1. re: BobB

              vindaloo is a goanese dish. most indian chefs in the US don't know how to cook it (they see the word "aloo" which means potatoes; know that it is a very spicy hot dish - and thus serve a moderately hot - modified for western taste - potato dish with whatever meat they wish!)

              In classical cooking, vindaloo (the word aloo is a corruption of the portugese alho - garlic) is made with pork. The characteristic heat is from lots of capiscum chilli peppers (various types may be used) and there are no potatoes in it. In addition, it is made with a substantial amount of vinegar - which is meant to "preserve" the dish, and therefere the other characteristic taste is that of vinegar. Bottom line: searing hot and tart vinegar tastes. I have had an authentic vindaloo from a real pro indian chef - and believe me - i have cried over it. there are several prepared vindaloo pastes (patak for example) which can be used for a good foundation and then you have to add pork, vinegar and additional chili pepper and other ingredients to make it authentic.

              1. re: cornFusion

                And the best version I have come across of this style of vindaloo is from Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Alford and Duguid, just a pefect version of a pork Goan style dish.

                When I'm making it at home the above version does the trick,but when I'm out I do still miss the UK restaraunt version. I've also sen lots of places where the staff come out to see the person willing to try the spicy concoction they have created it is not usually with a vindaloo. I always remember having to ask fro things off the menu - as them to prepare something that is really hot and see what they bring you!!

            2. As some folks said it is typically the hottest dish on the menu, plus it is a vinegar based sauce, but many English / Indian style restaurants serve Phaal which is so hot it makes vindaloo seem tame.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JMF

                Although Phaal is not really an Indian dish at all, it's a Western concoction invented for the sole purpose of challenging chiliheads who weren't satisfied with vindaloo. Like chicken tikka masala, but on the other end of the heat spectrum.

              2. Though I've had some spicy Indian vindaloos, nothing compares to Thai food for that mind-numbing, back of the neck sweating HEAT.

                1 Reply
                1. re: whs

                  I love Thai. There's a Thai restaurant not far from my house that, unlike its competitors, doesn't wimp out when you ask for you entree to be "Thai hot". I'm in heaven every time I go there.

                2. So, we have this friend, truly a 'hound, who goes to an Indian restaurant here in a major east coast city, with some serious Indian restaurants. He orders Vindaloo and asks the waitron for it "the way you would eat it at home". "No, sir," the perfectly polite gentleman replies. "You don't really want that. You don't eat Indian food all the time." You can see this already: our friend insists, the waitron is polite, our friend insists some more ... and nearly dies with the first mouthful. It's one thing to go to the restaurant ... it's another to be part of the culture.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Meann

                    Yes! Vindaloo!

                    The word vindaloo connotates "HOT" so you really shouldn't order it like "mild" or anything other than having to say "vindaloo" (many places in the US still ask me how hot i'd like it)... in the UK they never ask how hot you want it they just look at you like "are you sure whitey?"

                    In the Middle East the vindaloo is spectacular.

                    I hear in UK there is a regional Indian dish that is hotter than vindaloo called PHALL or something like that. I haven't had it and I don't know if it's native to India but I think it's native to Indian-UK residents?

                    I had the best vindaloo with a boiled egg in it, and potatoes and chicken. And HOT!

                    I am cooking up some Patak's right now.


                    san diego food blog

                  2. The only Vindaloo I ever make anymore I make with Penzey's Vindaloo blend. It is just plain better than the three or four scratch recipes I'd tried. It is my huge family's favorite of anything I make and I have to do it for them several times a year. Even the kids love it; even several family members who are usually strictly steak/potatoes/vanilla ice cream.

                    Penzey's brief instructions say to use between 2 & 5 Tbsps. of the blend to make the paste for 1 1/2 lbs. of cubed pork. I use the full 5 Tbsps. They also say this:

                    "For authentic fiery hot Vindaloo as served in beach front restaurants in India, add an equal part cayenne pepper"!!!!!! Can you even IMAGINE the explosion from an additional 5 Tbsps. cayenne for 1 1/2 lbs. pork???

                    It is wonderfully spicy as it is: cayenne, coriander, garlic, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, crushed brown mustard, jalapeno pepper, cardamom, turmeric, black pepper, cloves.

                    Only if I'm making it just for myself do I add some cayenne, and then only a tsp. or two for the single recipe.

                    I can't say enough good things about Penzey's artful blend. It's just perfect. I don't add potatoes, BTW; I serve it over Basmati rice.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: PhoebeB

                      Yes, I can imagine it, and it sounds great! I grow, dry, and grind my own cayenne peppers (they're ridiculously easy to grow, even up here in Boston, and MUCH more fragrant than any store-bought cayenne I've tasted), so I can tell you from experience that 5 tbsp ground is about 20 - 30 peppers. Now that sounds like real vindaloo! I'll have to get me some Penzey's.

                      1. re: PhoebeB

                        I can imagine the heat, but I'm having a bit of cognitive dissonance with "Vindaloo Pork".

                        1. re: Scrapironchef

                          Because you didn't realize that the Portuguese influence in Goa included a lot of pig-eating Catholics?

                          1. re: mlgb

                            Possibly, just never seen in the Indian restos that you go to in this part of the world. Indo-Portugese places are mighty thin on the ground, even in the bay area.

                            1. re: Scrapironchef

                              As has been implied above, the use of "vindaloo" has been transformed to mean any hot hot hot curry. And not necessarily anything authentically found in the region of origin.

                              1. re: Scrapironchef

                                It's not that they're Indo-Portuguese (which sounds like a fusion I'd like to see more of). Vindaloo is Goan, which is a occupied by the Portuguese in the 1500's as part of the spice trade. The food of the region developed uniquely from the rest of India because of this collision of East/West. Both literally brought something to the table. Vinegared dishes, the use of pork, certain breads and pastries all point to this history.

                                1. re: zebcook

                                  Recall that it was the combined Iberian conquest of the New World and Indian Ocean trade routes in the early 16th century that brought chillies to the Indian subcontinent.

                            2. re: Scrapironchef

                              Migb is right. Here's the very first sentence of Penzey's note re: their Vindaloo seasoning:

                              "This hot and spicy blend comes from Goa, a small state nestled in the middle of the Malabar Coast of India. Though control of Goa was returned to India in 1961, the 4 1/2 centuries of Portuguese rule left many lasting impressions. Pork Vindaloo is a favorite dish of the Catholics who make up a third of the population of Goa. The Muslims and Hindus of India prefer Vindaloo lamb or duck."

                              (EDIT:I should say zebcook is right, too. Our posts crossed in cyberspace.)

                            3. re: PhoebeB

                              cayenne pepper is only about 30k scoville, that's how hot vindaloo should be, so don't use cayenne pepper, it would only be hot enough if you hadn't any liquid in your sauce :), use thai red peppers instead (100K), see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scoville...

                            4. A number of years ago, I ordered Lamb Vindaloo at an Indian restaurant in Sydney; I was not asked how hot I wanted it, but I do love spicy food. TWO bites in, I was bright red and seat-soaked. This is not hyperbole -- I really mean two bites. Could not eat another bite. The owner/server was very concerned and made me consume a large bowl of yogurt. That helped some, but it took me several hours to recover.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: pikawicca

                                I had lamb vindaloo for the first time and after the first bite, tears actually splashed onto my glasses. I love spice and love many Indian dishes but that was just too hot for me.

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  This thread made me laugh. Several years ago I spent a day in London with my nephew who was doing his junior year abroad. We went to an Indian restaurant before the theater and he ordered vindaloo - he knew what he was getting. I love spicy food but the one time I'd tried vindaloo years before it was way too hot for me. Anyway my nephew was sweating like Arnold Brooks in "Broadcast News" but finished the whole plate. About a year later I introduced him to kimchee and he loves that too.