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  • Spencer Low

Portuguese influence on Indian cuisine

Indian cuisine should perhaps be more accurately referred to in the plural: there are so many regional differences, from seafood-heavy Bengali food to the primarily vegetarian food of the Gujerati. Despite its proud history and distinctive flavours, Indian cuisine however bears traces of European influence, the oldest one being that of the Portuguese.

"It was the Portuguese who taught us to culture yeast and make our breads; today it is an integral part of Mumbai and Goa’s culinary landscape. Portuguese is the only cuisine that introduced wine in cooking in India and is also the only one that uses so many types of vinegars. A lot of ingredients were brought in too — tomatoes, green chillies, corn and cashews." Hussain Shahzad, executive chef, O Pedro, Mumbai

The Portuguese left their mark in two ways: by introducing new ingredients to India – including rather surprisingly some spices – and by introducing their own dishes that the locals then adapted to suit Indian culinary techniques and tastes.

Examples of Portuguese-influenced dishes include:

  • vindaloo: the name of this Goan dish is derived from carne de vinha d'alhos, or meat in marinade of wine and garlic

"The name “Vindaloo” is derived from the Portuguese dish “Carne de Vinha d’Alhos” which is a dish of meat, usually pork, with wine and garlic. The Portuguese dish was modified by the substitution of vinegar (usually palm vinegar) for the red wine and the addition of red Kashmiri chillies with spices, to evolve into Vindaloo. The alternative terms are Vindalho or Vindallo. Traditional Goan Pork Vindaloo is intensely flavored with fragrant spices and does not include potatoes. No celebration and festive occasion is complete without the Goan Pork Vindaloo. It is enjoyed with the most popular and loved accompaniment, Goan sannas, which are prepared with toddy! This speciality is served with pride in every Goan home at Christmas, New Year and Easter." Blogger Hilda Mascarenhas

"Vindaloo started as a vinegar and garlic based stew made with pork or other meat but when introduced to India it got revamped with various spices and chillies. Potatoes were also added to the dish and “alhos” became “aloo” (Hindi word for “potatoes”) – so soon people assumed potatoes were a necessary ingredient of this dish." Garvin Harvey as attributed by GlobalVoices

  • sorpotel or sarapatel: common in the coastal Konkan region running from Mangalore through Goa, this is a dish of meat and offal that is first parboiled, then diced and sautéed before being cooked in a spicy and vinegary sauce. Apparently the animals' blood is even used sometimes for boiling.

Satapatel is even considered a typical dish of Brazil's northeast.

More examples to come, but if you have any to suggest, please do let me know!

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Renjith Leen
Renjith Leen
Dec 14, 2022

The Portuguese impact on the food in India is not just limited to Goa. In the southern state of Kerala, they are credited with revolutionizing the cuisine by introducing red chili, cashewnut, breadfruit and more than 70 other crops. They taught the newly baptized Latin Rite Catholics the art of preparing vindalho comprising both beef and pork, sardinha assado (sardines roasted with scales intact), sardines in vinegar and spices, bolo (flattened rice flour patties), figdosi (boiled plantains in sweet coconut milk), single-layer bebinca, dumpling stew, fish moilee, duck roast, pork roast to name a few among the several dishes popular among the Latin Rite Catholics along the coast. The Portuguese are credited with introducing tripe curry and ox tongue roast…

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