A heritage recipe for pork vindaloo passed through three generations , Food News & Top Stories

A heritage recipe for pork vindaloo passed through three generations , Food News & Top Stories

For housewife Shamin D’Souza, cooking provides much pleasure and enjoyment.

She derives joy and happiness from making dishes from scratch – everything from Indian fare to Italian cuisine – and loves when people bond over her food.

The Mumbai-born Singapore permanent resident moved here in 1998, when she took on a job as a flight stewardess with Singapore Airlines. The 41-year-old is of East Indian Catholic heritage, which has a culture strongly influenced by the Portuguese.

Just as how Peranakan and Eurasian families here have closely guarded recipes, so, too, do the East Indians.

Indeed, some of her recipes have been in her family for generations.

She shares a secret family recipe for pork indyal, also known as pork vindaloo, which she learnt from her mother, in this column. This East Indian recipe, was passed down from Ms D’Souza’s maternal grandmother.

Unlike the vindaloo that is found at most Indian restaurants, her family’s version does not contain potatoes or onion. Also, vindaloo, which is a mildly spicy meat stew with vinegar, is traditionally made with pork, she says.

Her family’s original recipe, however, calls for palm vinegar, which Ms D’Souza has been unable to find in Singapore.

But, not to worry, she says, as she has found that white vinegar works just as well.

No need for dried kashmiri chillies either – the dried long red chillies found at supermarkets such as FairPrice, she says, are good enough.

Keep the dish overnight and the flavours will intensify, she adds.

While she cooks a variety of dishes, which range from pasta and kebabs to Indian-Chinese fare and Korean food, the one ingredient that she cannot cook without is bottle masala.

Bottle masala is a special East Indian spice blend with more than 35 spices and herbs, which she makes by hand when she goes back to India to visit her family once or twice a year.

Each family has its own version and she usually brings back about a year’s supply of the mix when she returns to Singapore.

The dry spice mix, which takes about four days to make, includes more than five types of dried chilli and spices such as nutmeg, star anise and turmeric. It involves sun-drying ingredients and slow roasting them one at a time in a earthen pot known as a forma, before grinding them into a fine powder.

She adds a teaspoon of her bottle masala spice mix to vegetables, curries, stews and stir-fries.

“If you ask me to cook without bottle masala, I would feel handicapped,” she says.

The youngest of six children, born to a housewife and senior technician at a consumer goods conglomerate, she started cooking at the age of six, observing and helping her mother, now 81, in the kitchen.

She has fond memories of when her mother would single-handedly whip up feasts and lavish dinner spreads at her family home in Mumbai when she was growing up.

These days, she and her husband, Mr Vijay Kumar, 40, who works for an American technology company, host dinner parties about twice a month. She cooks and he makes the cocktails. The couple have a seven-year-old son.

She says: “Cooking makes me happy – it brings people together and I love that.”


(Clockwise from top left) Salt, ground turmeric, ginger, cumin seeds and vinegar (centre)


  • 1 kg pork belly
  • 1 Tbs salt

For the spice paste

  • 15 dried large red chillies, seeded and blanched in hot water
  • 80 to 90g of garlic, peeled (about two whole bulbs)
  • 1 Tbs cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric or
  • 25g fresh turmeric, peeled
  • 25g ginger, peeled
  • 1/4 piece of cinnamon stick, about
  • 2.5cm long About
  • 3 Tbs white vinegar

For cooking

About 3 Tbs white vinegar

Additional salt to taste


1. Start preparing the dish two days before you plan to eat it. First, cut the pork belly into chunks of about 2.5cm wide and 2.5cm thick. Keep the skin and layers of fat intact.

2. Place the chunks of pork belly into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 Tbs of salt and mix well. Cover with plastic cling film and refrigerate overnight (at least eight hours).

3. Remove the pork from the fridge. Rinse it, drain and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Put the pork into a clean glass bowl or earthen pot and set aside.

4. Next, make the spice paste. In a food processor, blend all the ingredients for the spice paste together until a smooth paste is achieved.

5. Mix the spice paste into the pork. Cover the bowl or pot with plastic cling film and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for another eight hours.

6. When you are ready to cook the dish, remove the pork from the fridge.

7. Add the marinated pork to a pot or claypot set over low heat. Add the additional vinegar and salt to taste. Cook until the meat is tender, for about 45 minutes. You can also cook the pork in an electric slow-cooker for a few hours on low heat or until the meat is tender.

8. Once the pork is cooked, turn off the heat. Leave it to rest for two to three hours to allow the flavours to infuse into the pork. The dish can also be refrigerated overnight and eaten the next day.

9. Heat it up to serve. Goes well with bread or a crusty baguette.

Serves six

Note: Chicken can be used as an alternative to pork. Opt for chicken thigh fillets with the skin intact

• Follow Rebecca Lynne Tan on Twitter @STrebeccatan