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Vadouvan Spices up Stein's Life

Nancy Leson
Nancy's spice tiffin. Middle: Turmuric. Clockwise from 6: Chili powder, ground cumin, cayenne,dry oregano, whole cumin, aleppo pepper.

I'd mentioned to Nancy Leson that I was out of two of my favorite spices. Recently, shopping one of our favorite food stores, Big John's PFI, the ever-thoughtful Leson picked up my Aleppo pepper and sumac and mailed them to me, along with a bonus spice.  Thanks, Nance! 

Nancy had included a small bag of bright yellow powder. One of her favorites, it was a blend I'd never heard of called vadouvan.  So what is that stuff?

Vadovan is a French influenced masala or spice blend.  The name itself seems to be a corruption of the Puducherry curry blend known as vadagam.  My impression at first sniff was of the yellow curry powder I keep stocked in my pantry but with something more. 

That something more might include dried shallots and garlic, fenugreek, and mustard, depending on who's compiling the mix.  Nancy first encountered the stuff in 2009 "...when chef Jason Wilson from Crushmade this delicious fresh fish that had this curry blend that I had never heard of nor seen before  –  and it smelled so good that people were just following the plates with their eyes and their noses"

I used it that very night in a Thai braised rib dish I like and it's never tasted better.  Nancy tried coating some parboiled spuds in vadouvan and "...roasted the heck out of them. Man, that was delicious." 

Want to try making your own vadouvan?  There's no better place to start than with this Max Falkowitz post at one of my favorite cooking sites,

"This curry was like a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony that I'd once heard... with everything screaming and banging 'Joy.' It stunned, it made one fear great art.  My father could say nothing after the meal."

– Anthony Burgess

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.