Lamb Vindaloo Debate

It seems like our whole family is into the world of restaurants.  Suresh has a large family.  Three older sisters and brothers-in-law (two sets of whom own Chaat Cafe), a bunch of nephews and nieces, their wives and of course his parents.  Whenever we get together, the focus is almost always on food (along with sports unfortunately).  We often joke as to what would happen if we took those two things away.

Sitting around, we are always talking about the restaurant business, be it our latest Yelp reviews, strategies, sharing tips back and forth and what the rest of the family thought of their latest food experience at our restaurants.

Suresh’s mum is, of course, our most brutal critic. (Move over, Michael Bauer.)  We panic when she’s coming to eat and try to ensure the food is at its ABSOLUTE ABSOLUTE BEST.  If she is happy, all is well.  If not, we know we have some more work to do and that is always exhausting when you are already trying your best.

One recent funny discussion between Aman (Suresh’s nephew and Chaat Cafe’s head chef) and I was over the definition of Lamb Vindaloo.  Both of us are Punjabi, but on occasion we both do regional Indian specials.  He was surprised as to why I don’t put aloo (‘potatoes’ in Punjabi) in my Vindaloo.  I told him that was not traditional and that I had read that ‘Vin’ was vinegar and ‘Aloo’ was garlic in Portugese and those were the two main components of the dish, with no potatoes.  (The dish arises from when the Portugese colonized Goa.)

We just looked at each other pretty sure of our own positions.  Aman’s younger brother declared a ‘Chef Off’ to conclude the debate, so we had to Wikipedia it.

Turns out we were both kind of right.  It is not traditional to add potatoes, but has been done so much that it has kind of become tradition.  I guess it’s because of the confusion around Aloo being part of the word Vindaloo.

As a side note, according to Wikipedia, there are some Indian restaurants serving ‘Tindaloo’, which apparently means an extra spicy version of Vindaloo.  Aman is convinced (and I’m with him on this) that it probably was a typo at a restaurant that was then covered up with this extra spicy story.

The different number of  fake Vindaloos that we came up with after this had the family in fits of laughter for a while.  The worst of the bunch was ‘Been da the loo’ (when you’ve had too much vindaloo), which kind of signaled that we had to end the joke.

I find it fascinating that the regional distinctions in India are so vast not only in cuisine but in culture and language.  Even within a region, from home to home, traditions vary widely on a recipe.  I hope that we will see more and more regional Indian cuisine become popular in San Francisco.


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