Vindaloo in London
Hey folks -
I'd like to know where to get a good rendition of standard English vindaloo. Although I thought vindaloo was a common/popular dish in London for many years, it seems to be hard to find:
I've read every past thread that included the word vindaloo, and the only joint I saw mentioned was Cafe Spice Namaste (and this was without an endorsement, just a mention of the menu), which claims to serve something more like the genuine/traditional Portuguese vindaloo as interpreted by the Goans who made the dish famous. They explicitly say it's not like the vindaloo one normally finds in the U.K. / the way vindaloo has evolved in the U.K.
I've also read many threads about Indian restaurants in London (from all areas of the subcontinent). Many places commonly mentioned (e.g., Thattukada, New Tayyabs) are from/specialize in the wrong region. Others are from more of the right part of the country or are just broader in scope (I think) (e.g., Bombay Brasserie, Moti Mahal, Mirch Masala) but don't have it on their menu.
None of the five Indian restaurants I happened to walk by the other afternoon on the way home have it on the menu.
Thus, my question is naively simple: where can I get a good version of the normal rendition of this dish? Or, if you aren't sure, what's a place that serves most things on their menu well and that you know has vindaloo on their menu?
Thanks everyone for the interesting discussion.
I'll take PhilD's advice and head to an arbitrary high street curry house, cross my fingers, and try a vindaloo, understanding what I'm getting may pretty different than what I'd get at some other place, as these vindaloos are just an English-invented dish. Then I'll go try Cafe Spice Namaste, Ma Goa, or Palms of Goa, something like those, for what's purported to be a more authentic vindaloo.
i think your question is a bit confusing. while vindaloo is indeed a goan dish, there actually is no such thing as a 'standard English vindaloo'. the reason is this: many many years ago, when the bangla deshis started 'curry houses' and their ilk in the uk, they simply borrowed famous indian dish names and stuck them on their menu without the slightest idea of what they actually were. this is bastardisation with a vengeance, not evolution: whatever one curry house was calling vindaloo was in all likelihood completely different from what the other was calling vindaloo. thus looking in regular indian restaurants is a waste of time; medgirls advice is spot on: order a generic curry and dress it up.
Guys! Give poor Mark a break! The guy wants a sludgy, stupidly spicy vindaloo, the kind we all grew up on after far too many half priced student lagers...Sue him!
I for one have my own 'dirty foods'. The 3am kebab when you can't decide between garlic, chilli or mayo and have all of them. Cold takeaway curry picked from the fridge for breakfast. Cr*ppy pizza whilst watching the Superbowl. Viennetta...Bliss.
Proper Goan pork vindaloo is, I agree, a dish of beauty. But sometimes you want ugly food.
Mark - try the Ceylon dishes at Khans in Brixton. Just as hot as Vindaloo but maybe ever so slightly tastier. But still nothing fancy...
I must say that is a slight exaggeration, OK English curry house dishes are not exact copies of the originals but they don't/didn't vary a lot between high street curry houses across the country. A Vindaloo was a Vindaloo, a Phall was a Phall ect. Quality and execution varied but the basics are there.
I am with Helen on this, sometimes you simply want to eat food from your youth, a good high street curry house after a trip to the pub often hits the spot perfectly. Save "authenticity" (and I am with Jay Rayner on that subject) for other occasions.
Mark, you best bet to find a Vindaloo is to head to the suburbs, cruise the curry houses of King Street in Hammersmith for example.
Sorry if I sounded like I was hectoring Mark, but he was looking for curry house food in restaurants which have admirably distanced themselves from that genre of food. As PhilD said, he needs to go to a high street curry house. All the ones local to me in Lewisham have vindaloo in all its varieties (lamb, chicken, prawn) on their menus. English curry house food is not Indian food: it is food invented by Sylheti restauranteurs who figured out combinations that would appeal but at the same time appear exotic to the English palate and came up with several winners (chicken tikka masala, vindaloo, madras, korma, etc).
The part of the original post that I found puzzling was: "Others are from more of the right part of the country or are just broader in scope (I think) (e.g., Bombay Brasserie, Moti Mahal, Mirch Masala) but don't have it on their menu." Right part of which country? If he means India, he is mistaken, because in India, vindaloo is part of Goan cuisine, bearing no resemblance to the dish concocted by Bangladeshis in the UK for English people.
The whole paradox of 'Indian' food in the West is a bee in my bonnet. Discussing it always ends up with me frothing at the mouth!!!
Oh I think we all know its inauthenticity (is that a word?) but then authenticity is an interesting concept in its own right. Did you see this article (with 2m ensuing comments) from Simon (Bengali roots I think) on the Guardian blog? All about Glasgow's attempts to get geographical protection status for chicken tikka masala!
By the way, two good Indian restaurants sampled lately - Ganapati in Peckham and Hot Stuff in Vauxhall (one of those 'secret' places that critics pat themselves on the back for being adventurous enough to foray south of the river). Both jolly dee.
re: helen b
"Did you see this article (with 2m ensuing comments) from Simon (Bengali roots I think) on the Guardian blog? All about Glasgow's attempts to get geographical protection status for chicken tikka masala!"
as usual, i'm bewildered that the guardian chooses authors with absolutely no clue about the huge varieties of indian cuisines to blog about them.
lets set the record straight: there is a punjabi dish, found in every north indian restaurant, called butter chicken. the idea is to take the bits of chicken that fall off in the tandoor and make a dish out of them. someone somewhere then got th ebright idea of using chicken tikkas instead of the bits of chicken - that dish was extremely popular for instance at nataraj's kebab korner on marine drive in the seventies.
fast forward: uk curry houses trying to mimic the real deal invent their own dish that visually looks like butter chicken with chicken tikka pieces. thats the genesis of chicken tikka masala as any one with the merest acquaintance with indian food will confirm.
finally, hot stuff isn't really indian - its punjabi via east africa - but its good because it is mostly freshly cooked. i like it too.
its a question of emphasis: english curry house dishes are NOTHING like the original, save a red colored tandoori chicken tikka here and a seek kebab there. for example, since the recipe for 'dhansaak' was randomly made up, i find it difficult to believe what is called 'dhansaak' in bath is the same as the 'dhansaak' in london but we'll take your word for it.
the point here isn't to climb a high horse of authenticity; i understand and sympathize with any nostalgic hankering. the point is that what was hankered for doesn't exist as a uniform dish.
Yep, Goa is the source of vindaloo. Ma Goa in Putney has the version made traditionally with pork. Palms of Goa (branches in Soho and Bloomsbury) might be another place to try. Haven't had vindaloo in these places but I quite liked Ma Goa when I ate there over a year ago, and haven't been to either branch of Palms of Goa. Those places might be a good starting point.