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Spice Up Your Life

Goa the tiny Indian state nestled under Maharashtra was once a Portuguese colony in fact it was the first part of India to be conquered by the Europeans and the last to be liberated.

In 1498, Vasco da Gama the great Portuguese explorer arrived on Calicut, which is just South of Goa hoping to break the Venetians monopoly of trade. The Portuguese wanted to open a trade corridor directly through India to gain control of the spices especially the highly prized black pepper. Henry the Navigator had encouraged the Portuguese to explore the African coastline and this was because they wanted a passage around the Cape of Good Hope directly to India.

The spice trade was a major asset to the Portuguese economy, but amongst other things it became clear that a base in East Africa was necessary to secure the safety of the fleets across to India and the Portuguese seized the territory of Mozambique which gave the fleet a port where they could take on fresh water and provisions and at certain times of the year wait for more clement weather.

At the time Goa was ruled by the Muslims but it did not take Da Gama long to realize that the area could be taken and in 1510 a fierce battle was fought and lost by the Muslims, it is estimated that although the battle only ranged for a day two thirds of the nine thousand Muslims in the fortress died. Goa had become the center of Portuguese India.

Governor Albuquerque quickly annexed local support because unlike many conquering nations he made no attempt to change the customs of the local villages. His first act was to outlaw Sati often known as suttee the traditional Hindu funeral rite when a widow immolated herself on her husband's funeral pyre. Local customs were preserved and a document written in 1526 still survives today.

Goa had the same civic privileges as Lisbon; they had a direct line of communication with the King. Great churches and cathedrals were built in Goa which reflected the wealth that the area earned and St. Francis Xavier mentions the architectural splendor of what is now Vasco da Gama.

Unfortunately the Portuguese would encroach onto local life and impose their religion and customs upon the local people. In 1583, some Portuguese missionaries were slain the Portuguese authorities summoned the local chieftains saying they wanted peace. Whilst they were being held in the local fort they were all slain bar two who successfully escaped. The area was bereft of all local leaders and the Portuguese started to confiscate land for their dignitaries.

When India became independent in 1947, Goa was still Portuguese because despite requests from their Prime Minister Nehru Portugal refused to cede the territory. France had given up her small conclaves in Pondicherry and Madras but Portugal retained administrative control of Goa by amending its constitution and making it a province of Portugal which gave the Goans the same rights of citizenship as the Portuguese. By 1955, Nehru had had enough and he tried to enforce a blockade against Goa. On December 16 1961, Indian troops crossed the border into Goa and bombarded it for three days with air and sea strikes and finally the Portuguese admitted defeat and left.

Once the Portuguese left the Goans held a referendum and decided to become autonomous, Goa did not officially become part of India until 1987.Today it celebrates its liberation on the 19th of December.
One of the greatest contributions of the Portuguese was the influence it had on food and religion in the region. Today Goa is one of the three strongest Catholic strongholds in India the others being Kolkatta and Keralla the state to the South of Goa.

A traditional Portuguese dish was “Carne de Vinha d' Alhos", a highly flavored dish of pork with red wine vinegar and garlic. Another name for this dish was vindalho or vindallo, when this meal was transported to Goa it became the meal that was served at official functions during holiday times. As all food traditions are altered in a new environment so the vindaloo was altered and it has become one of the spiciest foods in India. It is still traditionally the national dish of Goa and still made only with Pork, Friday is the day that the pig is traditionally killed and Vindaloo is served all over Goa on Saturdays. Whilst you can buy Beef and chicken Vindaloo in other countries Goa still only serves it with pork and it was a way of making the pork safe to eat in the heat, as the fresh pork was marinated I n the vinegar and spices to preserve it overnight. Often Indian restaurants in the rest of the world serve Vindaloo with potatoes and this confusion has probably arisen because aloo means potatoes in Hindi, but in Goa a vindaloo is pork and spices and rich dark gravy, but no vegetables.

Vindaloo Paste recipe
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of whole black mustard seeds
10 -12 dried red chilies
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
4 black cardamom seeds
10 cloves of garlic
3 inches of ginger
3 inch stick of cinnamon
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt
1 ½ kilo of tomatoes


Dry roast the cumin seeds, dried chilies, the whole peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cinnamon stick, black mustard fenugreek seeds until they smell aromatic, then cool and grind in a coffee grinder.
Add the vinegar, salt and brown sugar. Set aside. Heat the oil in a wide pot over medium heat. Put the onions in and fry, stirring frequently, until the onions turn brown and crisp, but if they are over burned they will be bitter and affect the taste of the dish so keep the heat at medium. Remove onions with a slotted spoon and drain on newspaper. Fry the garlic and ginger.
Traditionally the onions are then pureed and blended with the spices and about two tablespoons of water. Marinade the pork in this mixture overnight. The next day preheat the oil remaining in the pot that you cooked the onions in, over medium-high heat. Cook the pork cubes a few at a time, browning lightly on all sides. Repeat until all the pork as been browned. Add a cup of water and the tomatoes simmer very slowly until the pork is very tender.

Article provided courtesy of
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stainless cookware
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