Spice World

By Sylvan Goldberg May 19, 2009 Published in the January 2006 issue of Portland Monthly

When Vasco da Gama left Portugal at the end of the 15th century to find a trade route to India, he succeeded in opening up access to one of Europe’s most treasured trade items.

"When the Portuguese left Europe looking for spices—cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon—the Spanish were always right behind them," says David Machado, whose recently opened Vindalho showcases Indian cuisine in a casual neighborhood setting. "If a Spanish or Portuguese ship caught each other, they would steal the goods, crucify the crew and burn the ship. It was such high stakes—and for spice!"

For the last year, Machado has had the wind in his sails, enjoying accolades for Lauro Kitchen, his Mediterranean bistro on SE Division St. His explorations of the spice route were born of curiosity about the influence of European traders, who transported New World produce (potatoes, corn), a predilection for pork and native Indian spices along their travels.

Vindalho captures the enticing culinary blend that resulted: The name of the traditional Indian pork dish (often spelled vindaloo) is a contraction of the Portuguese words for wine (vinho) and garlic (alhos). At his restaurant, Machado combines foods from the subcontinent—tandoori skewers and flatbreads from northern India, lentils and chutneys from the South—with vegetables from the Pacific Northwest.

Which means you don’t have to rig up a galleon to discover exotic tastes.