Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lamb Shank Vindaloo – Be Careful What You Wish For

Considering all the off-the-wall stuff I say in the videos, I don’t get that much negative email, but one of the more common complaints is, “Dude, where’s the Indian food?” Well, this succulent and spicy lamb shank vindaloo is for you! 

I have very little experience cooking Indian food, so that this came out as deliciously as it did is nothing short of amazing. That said, I’m sure you Goan cuisine “experts” will let me know how to make this even better next time.

The name “vindaloo” comes from a Portuguese dish called "Vinha d' Alhos," which is basically pork stewed with wine and garlic. After being introduced to India, the wine became vinegar, chicken and lamb replaced the pork, and many local spices and chilies were added…other than that, it’s exactly the same.

This is almost always done with cubes or chunks of meat, but I decided to go with the very user-friendly lamb shank instead. Portioning is simple, as one shank feeds one person, but what’s even more exciting for the novice cook is the fact that this is almost impossible to mess up. Simply simmer on low until the meat is fork tender. That’s it! I hope you give this very tasty lamb curry dish a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 Portions:

4 lamb shanks

For the marinade:
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp tamarind concentrate (I’ve never used tamarind before, so I’m not sure how this would convert to fresh or tamarind pulp, but I’m sure there are people that know!)
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
2 tsp salt

For the wet mixture:
1 onion, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup sliced ginger
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup water

For the spice mixture:
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
1 1/2 tablespoon paprika

For the rest:
3 tablespoons clarified butter (melt butter and skim off the white milk solids)
1 large onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 rounded tablespoon brown sugar
cilantro leaves, optional

View the complete recipe


juice said...

Chef now that you have ventured into the world of tamarind, would you do a restaurant style pad thai recipe? There are a few recipes online that taste ok, but none that replicate the taste from my local Thai place.

Anonymous said...

Chef, Keep on cookin'. You are lightyears beyond the rest in the culinary landscape -- with a sense of humor to boot! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef John! My husband and I LOVE following your videos on new adventures in the kitchen. You make for great dates and delicious meals! We're excited to try this Indian recipe. How much brown sugar do you recommend? Thank you so much!

Unknown said...

Looks great chef. I've never tried vindaloo and now I'm inspired to give it a shot. Two things you may want to experiment witih:

1) Add about 1/2 teaspoon of Asafoetida Powder when you fry spices with the onion. I've seen this brand in Indian stores in California. This stuff is pungent and will make your cupboard smell, so try to store it away from other foods.

2) I'm not sure if it will work for this particular recipe, but often Indian recipes call for 'tempering', which seems analogous to finishing a sauce with butter. For instance, heat mustard seeds and fresh curry leaves in ghee until the seeds pop, then garnish your dish with it. Fresh curry leaves are amazing, you should probably buy some regardless.

Anonymous said...

Me encantan tus videos,la forma en que bromeas haciendo tus deliciosas recetas.
Mi deseo se hizo realidad!!!
Que bueno que colocaste una de mis platos favoritos...ahora si me arriesgo a hacerla.Uhmmmm!!!!!

Mil gracias chef Jhon.

Bond Tr4der said...

Yo Chef John!

We here in Britain love our curries, and alot of "indian" cuisine was actually borne from demand for ever hotter and hotter curries in the UK; in order of increasing heat, a general rule of thumb goes: Madras < Tindaloo < Vindaloo < Nag < Phall (this being the hottest).

You may wonder, if these are essentially British dishes, why they have exotic sounding names? The answer, at least with respect to the "Phall" is that it is Onomatopoeic - the name of the dish is similar to the sound that it makes... in, you have one bite of it, and all you can say is "Phall....."

[this joke may only work if you have a British accent. Apologies]

Anonymous said...

Congrats Chef John on taking the plunge!

To add to a long list of suggestions that will surely come....while puréeing makes a nice sauce, the puréed onion mixture doesn't caramelize as well as chopped onions (too much water?) and so sometimes people take the extra effort of sautéeing the onions and then either cooking it covered until they "melt" or puréeing them once browned.

I know, it's a ton of work...

Chef John said...

I agree about the onion! That's why I browned one in the butter first. :) Thanks!

Festizzeo said...

Good to see you skimming the fat off the top, they don't seem to believe in this practice at Bengal Bennys Balti and Bhaji Emporium, so after you've finished your meal and gone home, you feel like you've grown a third buttock down the back of your underpants. While I'm here I might as well sing the praises of the finest Indian dish ever conceived in a grease pit on the outskirts of Thanet, Sag Aloo. A fantastic dish, perfect starter before a Lamb Shank Vindaloo in fact. Excellent post.

Anonymous said...

I'm rather glad that you don't do a lot of Indian cuisine. It always contains cilantro (coriander leaves). Somewhere between 5-15% of people with northern European ancestry and an unknown percentage of Africans cannot tolerate cilantro.

To us, it tastes the way a dead stinkbug smells, mixed with a little bit of dishwashing liquid. Truly horrible. And it is apparently in 100% of Indian food.

(Hope anonymous comments are ok, because I forgot my blogger pword)

philogaia said...

I love Indian food, authentic or not and have terra-formed my kitchen and pantry to take advantage. I like this preparation though I think I'll go with some whole black mustard and black cumin in the dry spice mix. And I have goat shanks in the freezer that might be just perfect...

Anonymous said...

I shouldn't be posting this, because it doesn't matter what I say on the internet.

But I get infuriated when people tell you that you should have done something a certain way, when it's exactly how you did it in the video.

It's like they skipped the video and went straight here to tell you how you should have done it so they can feel smart.

Maybe I'm in a bad mood. Eh, I dunno.

Anonymous said...

I see the list of ingredients, but where are the recipe instructions?

Monica said...

Love Indian food and vindaloo is always burning hot when we have it at restaurants, this is a must to try.
love all your posts and meals.

Unknown said...

I don't think anyone said "you should have done it this way." That wasn't the intent of my post, at least. My intent was to have John try a few ingredients and then come back and tell us how to make delicious things.

suvro said...

Chef John - I am originally from India. Growing up vindaloo was one of those dishes that was never cooked at home, but eaten at restaurants. It is originally from the western state of Goa, which was a Portuguese colony.

While we cook pork vindaloo from Madhur Jaffrey's cookbook now at home, here is a recipe on the web from a former restaurant chef in India -

I think Chef John will like this guy's slightly over the top style.

On a different note, we made your lamb shish kaburger for 40+ people on our July 4th party, and even in that large quantity, it was a tremendous success. The combination of garam masala, sambal olek, yogurt, crushed almonds, and other ingredients just is perfect!

Thanks Chef!

Chibby said...

Looks like a good vindaloo.I wouldn't worry about the "authentic police" too much,John.There's a hundred ways to cook everything.I've seen vindaloo done half a dozen different ways even in my limited experience.I think the recipe changes from house to house.Mine is a bit different then this,but your looks more presentable.On a totally positive note;I was watching this while my husband was getting ready for work and now he's taking me on a date to our favorite Indian joint.Thanks my man!

nefsaye1 said...

Good-morning Chef John!

I have been meaning to write to you ever since i found you on

I am from Ethiopia originally and pretty much grew up here for the past 10 years. I love to cook and most of the time the recipes i find are a bit complicated and not as easy and fast to cook. The day i discovered your blogpost, i have been blessed. I just love the way you record your cookings! So fast, clean, simple, elegant, enticing, entertaining, and simply exceptionally done! I am attempting to cook some of your recipes today and sometime this week.

Hands down you have the best blogpost, cooking/teaching style, voice, humor...every package. I love your work and i will be voting for you from this day forth! You're an inspiration.

I have one favor to ask you as well. I have the worst and oldest pots and pans ever! I am willing to invest and buy a good one now. Is there any brand you recommend, style, type etc? I really need your help on that. What do you use by the way?

Thanks for your time

Chef John said...

For a great value, I love this set...

(fyi, link just to show brand, not to promote Walmart)

nefsaye1 said...

Thanks! You're the best.

Sarah-Jane - said...

Been cooking this tonight. It's in the pot, smelling divine.

Long cooking time (should really have done it at the weekend) - so will need to reheat it for tomorrow.

Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Turned out good but not great. I'll explain. First, the substitutions:

- White vinegar instead of cider. (Didn't have.)

- "Kat-a-kat" instead of garam masala. (Similar mix. You like that name?)

- Canned tomato puree instead of cherry tomatoes. (It's quicker and cheaper and I didn't have cherry tomatoes.)

Add ons:

- I added a teaspoon of tomato paste to compensate for not using cherry tomatoes.

- Threw in some lime wedges for added taste. Mistake! Those wedges marinated for three hours and the flavor from the skin made the sauce bitter. Oh well.

I've made this recipe without the wedges and it was delicious. John I'm astounded you don't do Indian more often. Butter Chicken?

Anonymous said...

Can this be done in a pressure cooker and if so, how long should I cook the meat?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, did I say slow cooker or pressure cooker? I can't remember. I meant to say pressure cooker. I'd love to be able to cook this dish in half an hour if possible.

Chef John said...

Sorry, I've never done!

Anonymous said...

Yes, it can be done in a pressure cooker. I did a batch of five lamb vindaloo shanks the other day. I cooked for 25 min, I checked it, it wasn't done, I cooked it for another 25 min and it turned out great.

Today though, I sort of burnt it. I think for two reasons. First, there was less liquid going in. Second, I kept the temperature on high the entire time. The reason I did this was that the needle weight was slowly spinning on medium, but this time would only spin around on high. I guess I should always turn the heat down to medium low? I will investigate.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it can be done in a pressure cooker. I did a batch of five lamb vindaloo shanks the other day. I cooked for 25 min, I checked it, it wasn't done, I cooked it for another 25 min and it turned out great.

Today though, I sort of burnt it. I think for two reasons. First, there was less liquid going in. Second, I kept the temperature on high the entire time. The reason I did this was that the needle weight was slowly spinning on medium, but this time would only spin around on high. I guess I should always turn the heat down to medium low? I will investigate.

The Incredible Sulk said...

If I were to make this with chicken thighs any suggestion on how many to use?

Chef John said...

Maybe 12?

Unknown said...

This was absolutely terrific! I've made many of the food wishes recipes and this was our favorite.

Quite a bit of leftover sauce which was great on grilled chicken breasts the next day.

Unknown said...

excellent dish, many thanks for the recipe