Hot food: Vadouvan

Jill Dupleix
Vadouvan spice mix is sweet, mild and aromatic.
Vadouvan spice mix is sweet, mild and aromatic. Photo: Edwina Pickles

What is it?

A sweet, mild, aromatic Indian spice blend, said to be developed by the French colonists of Pondicherry on India's eastern coast. Onions and garlic are cooked down to a wet paste, then combined with cumin, coriander, curry leaves, cloves, cardamom, chilli, fenugreek and pepper and dried to a dry paste or powder.

Where is it?


At Cru in Kew, chef Justin Cortellino makes vadouvan to spice up the rice for ''The Kedge'', a newly legendary kedgeree of smoked cod, boiled egg and chilli. ''It's such a great all-rounder,'' he says. ''We cook the fresh vadouvan paste into the rice, then dehydrate some and turn it into crisp shards for the garnish. Hopefully we're bringing kedgeree back for a new generation.''

Roast cauliflower with vadouvan.
Roast cauliflower with vadouvan. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Meanwhile, over at PM24 in Russell Street, chef Philippe Mouchel is using vadouvan to give a spicy French accent to Spring Bay mussels. ''I wanted to do a creamy mussel soup with a spice hit, so it was perfect,'' he says. ''Of course, it was invented by the French, you know.'' Mouchel serves the mussel veloute with warmed heirloom tomatoes for acidity, and some grilled naan bread spiced with more vadouvan. His tip for home cooks is to pan-fry fish in a little butter and a teaspoon of dried vadouvan. ''It's simple, and very nice,'' he says.


At the Clareville Kiosk, chef Peter Christensen drizzles his own vadouvan oil over creamed potato to serve with samphire and a creamy lobster and prawn nage. "It makes a really nice oil, refined and with a lovely colour" he says. "It's curry-flavoured without going over the top."

Albion St Kitchen's Grant Astle makes vadouvan to serve with Cone Bay barramundi, cauliflower and tamarind gel. "It's like having curried onions ready to go," he says. "We throw it in a pan with foaming butter, parsley and lemon juice when we're ready to serve." His tip? "Mix vadouvan with butter and keep it on hand for when you're cooking fish, then finish with parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice."

Why do I care?

It gives an instant warm, golden, spicy curry glow to fish, prawns, chicken, soups, stews and vegetable dishes.

Can I do it at home?

By all means. Make it yourself by slow-cooking chopped onions, shallots and garlic until browned, mixing in the spices listed earlier, and slow-roasting it in an oven (or dehydrator) until dried. Or take a short cut with ready-made vadouvan curry mix from stockists including Herbie's Spices ($4.90 for 40g).



Where to buy and try it

Herbie's Spices


Raw Ingredients 36b Hesse Street, Queenscliff, 5258 5275

Herbicious Delicious 10 Parsons Lane, Olinda, 9751 1399

Cru 916 Glenferrie Road, Kew, 9818 4366

PM24 24 Russell Street, Melbourne, 9207 7424


Clareville Kiosk, 27 Delecta Avenue, Clareville 9918 2727

Albion St Kitchen, 48 Albion Street, Surry Hills 9212 7979

Roast cauliflower with vadouvan

Serve as a side dish to roast chicken, or with hummus and tabouli as a meal.

1 medium cauliflower

2 tbsp olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

1 tbsp butter

2 tsp vadouvan spice mix

2 tbsp parsley leaves

1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Cut the cauliflower into florets and toss in olive oil. Scatter over a baking tray and bake for 40 minutes or until golden and tender. Season well. To serve, melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan, add the vadouvan and stir through. Add the cauliflower and toss for a minute or two until well coated over low heat (don't let it catch and burn). Scatter with parsley leaves and serve.

Serves 4

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