I followed this recipe of beef vindaloo, last night, triple checking everything written there. Since I don't have a spice grinder, I put the chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, salt and spices in a mixie and converted it into a fine paste. Then poured it into a container which had 1kg cleaned beef pieces, poured 250ml of vinegar (the recipe says 250ml for 0.5kg beef, but I felt pouring 500ml for 1kg of beef is too much).

It's been marinated in a fridge overnight. Today morning the beef seems a bit tough when I squeeze it. I thought it's supposed to turn tender.

Anyway, now the recipe asks me to use the marinade for frying the beef a bit. This confuses me.

  1. How is beef going to get fried (even though there will be 8tbsp of oil), when the marinade contains a good amount of water from the tomatoes and onions?
  2. Every other recipe I have known, the tomatoes are only added after the frying takes place. I've never known tomatoes being used in marination. Is this really something that works?
  3. Every other recipe calls for the onions to be fried along with the spices. Is onion really blended into a paste and used for marination?
  4. Now that I have a rather large quantity of marinade full of onion and tomato, will that ruin the taste of the curry because the onion paste might not actually get fried?
  5. Should I (instead of trying to fry the marinade), take some fresh onions, chop them up with some ginger and garlic and fry them in oil until golden brown, and take the beef pieces separately and fry it for a while (until the outsides are brown) with the onions, ginger and garlic and later add the entire marinade to make a curry?

Somehow I feel that if I just follow the rest of the recipe on that page, the curry will get messed up.

2 Answers 2


A couple things to keep in mind -

Using less vinegar in the marinade: is the purpose of the marinade to infuse the beef with flavor and tenderize it? Or is it mainly (or additionally) to apply a coating/paste/sauce to the surface of the beef, that is expected to stay on the meat, to a certain extent? Keep in mind a "tenderized" meat isn't going to semi-dissolve in the marinade when raw as much as the protein structures are going to react a bit differently when cooked. You probably aren't going to be able to tell by touch. A more "liquid" marinade might be more effective in penetrating beyond the surface of the beef and interacting with the meat on the interior. It might be better, not worse, to have a more "liquid" marinade.

"How is the beef going to get fried" - the frying immerses the beef in a very hot substance, and the heat, while reacting more to the surface of the meat, texture-wise, will eventually transfer to the interior of the meat. Let's put it this way - if you didn't use any marinade, at all, how could any meat cook via frying unless it was ground beef disbursed as crumbles? Clearly, the frying process doesn't have to actually touch all parts of the beef to cook it. Similarly, if there is a coating, depending on how well that coating adhere's to the meat, the meat beneath it will still cook, just from all the heat being applied.

Blending the onions obviously infuses the marinade with more of the flavor. It seems like other recipes want minimal onion flavor infused into the marinade, but instead want to use onion as part of the dish, with the onion getting marinade flavor infused into it. Not that I have anything against more onion flavor in marinades, but that doesn't seem to be what they were shooting for with this dish. However, having said that, if don't like pieces of onion and prefer the marinade with more of an onion flavor, then you've stumbled onto a recipe variation that better suits what you like. No rule against that.

Again, I think the tomatoes being added later is more an artifact of the recipe being a mixed meat and vegetable dish, and the desire to have tomatoes, in that form. I think there are probably dishes that use tomato as part of a marinade, and there's no reason not to if you want your meat infused with that flavor, but, again, that is quite different than meat that is infused without it and accompanied by tomatoes. Tomatoes work fine as a marinade component when you want that tomato flavor, though, as Jefromi mentions, often tomato paste is used if that flavor is desired, instead, since fresh or canned tomatoes have so much water content, which dilutes that tomato "flavor."

Sometimes you see variations on dishes that are not traditional or classic takes on dishes, but, rather, what the person posting likes, themselves. As far as "ruining" the dish, if you are after a more classic take, and this is a modified version (think of all the "Americanized" Chinese and Mexican dishes there are out there - perfectly fine..... unless you are craving the original, classical, authentically ethnic style), then it's going to seem "ruined" to you. If you like this take, and it's quite different from the classical style, then it's different, not ruined, because the ultimate measure of "ruined" or not is how it tastes, to you.

Certainly, if you have something in mind, use that to assess, more than the title, whether you want to try that recipe, or create some hybrid of that recipe and another.

When my town rapidly ran out of Chinese eateries that made kung pao exactly as I like it, I had to search. If a recipe had an abundance of hoisin sauce, instead of a little, and did not have Chinese black vinegar in the cooking sauce, I knew that was not what I wanted, so I skipped trying those, regardless of descriptions or relative fame of the sources. Because I knew that was key to whether I liked a version or not.


tl;dr there is more than one way to cook food, it sounds like you're used to a specifc pattern, but it's not the only one. I'd personally encourage you to try the recipe as-is before you leap to judgment.

(1) It says sauté, not fry, and that will work fine. You should probably shake off excess marinade, and avoid crowding the pan too much. The water will boil and spatter, but the meat will cook and brown. This will be easier if you use the right amount of liquid, though. I see that you reduced the amount of vinegar. You should probably have stuck to the recipe, or replaced the vinegar with water if you wanted to reduce the vinegar flavor.

(2) Sure, you can use tomato sauce/paste in a marinade if you want. It'll impart a bit of tomato flavor to the meat, maybe. The recipe also isn't 100% clear, but does later say "add the reserved masala water", so I think it's also having you use the marinade as the sauce, and the tomato will certainly be obvious enough there.

(3) Yes, you can also use raw onions in marinades. Same note here about how it appears it also ultimately gets cooked into the dish.

(4) It's hard to answer, because I don't really understand why you think this would ruin the dish. The meat has some raw tomato and onion in a marinade, then it gets cooked. You also put raw tomato and onion into the dish, and then cook them. Everything ends up cooked. Not fried, but frying is not the only way to cook food.

(5) I mean, you could do that, and it'd probably be good too, but that's not what this recipe says to do, so it'd be a somewhat different dish. One of the main characteristics of this recipe is that it produces a smooth sauce, with all the flavors blended together: all the spices, the tomato, the onion, everything. There are no noticeable pieces of onion (or garlic or ginger), but the flavor's in it.

(and as for marinades tenderizing things - that's not always the point, not all meat really needs it, but tenderizing also doesn't really mean the meat will be incredibly soft while still raw, just that it'll be more tender and easy to bite/chew)

  • Thank you Jefromi. Very informative. Long back I tried preparing mashed potatoes without using onions. It turned out so bad I didn't feel like eating it. I assumed then, that the fried onions add a flavour and crunchiness that makes dishes good to eat. So was worried that the onion paste wouldn't get fried and crunchy and therefore ruin the dish.
    – Nav
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 7:01
  • 3
    Well, at that point you're talking about personal tastes. In the US, mashed potatoes with gravy is the canonical mashed potato dish, and there are no crunchy fried onions involved, and people still love the dish. So if a lack of fried onions makes you not want to eat a dish, okay, just keep in mind that's just your preferences, and there's going to be a lot of recipes out there that don't match those preferences.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 14:28
  • This was just mashed potatoes and a pinch of turmeric. No gravy. If there was gravy I'm sure it'd have turned out ok. I used to have mashed potatoes with chapathi, and it is the eating with chapathi that doesn't work out if there are no fried onions that gives it a crunchiness and flavour. btw, the beef vindaloo turned out ok in terms of the tenderness of the meat, but the tomato taste is too dominant and the meat seems to lack salt. Also, I just couldn't figure out how to saute it properly when there was so much vinegar and tomato+onion paste.
    – Nav
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 15:51
  • The recipe does say "salt to taste" so it's kinda up to you to decide how much you like! Can always add more at the end, even if it's not as good as having it there while you marinate. And, if you shake off excess marinade/paste before sauteeing the meat, it should be fine. Keep in mind that it doesn't have to be like frying plain meat in oil; you're not failing if it takes a bit to cook off water and it doesn't all crust and brown perfectly. Balance of tomato versus other things is again just about personal taste (or maybe recipe quality).
    – Cascabel
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 15:56

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