The Indian Curry
The ultimate identity of India with the world, starts with the flavors of the Curry. It has caught the fascination of the globe around. It is one cuisine that is made with different variations by different famous chefs. People coming to India are always surprised as to how different the Curry tastes in India than in their respective countries.
The origin of the word ‘Curry’ comes from the the south Indian word ‘Kari’ which is a blend of spices and sauces, mainly coconut. However, it has spread all over the country with a number of variety. A curry takes in and combines different spices, vegetables, meat or any specialty of a particular place. And no matter how it tastes or how people make it different variations, it has always reflected its Indian quality – the one of adaptability.
The popularity of the Curry
The origin of ‘Curry’
The word curry comes from the Tamil word ‘kari’ which is a sauce of various spices. Alan Davidson, in his book ‘Oxford Companion to Food’, writes the accounts from a Dutch traveller in 1598 referring to a dish called ‘Carriel’. He also refers to a Portuguese cookery book from the seventeenth century called ‘Atre do Cozinha’, with chilli-based curry powder called ‘caril’.
Camellia Punjabi, in her book ‘50 Great Curries of India’, says that ‘Curry’ means ‘gravy’. She also suggests that probably in the North India a gravy dish was called ‘kaddi’ and that is where the English first landed in 1608 and then 1612.
The different influence of Curry
The ‘Curry’ is made differently in other South-east Asian countries. It is made in countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia to name a few.
The term ‘Curry’ is now used more broadly, especially in the Western world, to refer to almost any spiced, sauce-based dishes cooked in various south and southeast Asian styles. Each curry has a specific name, however, any wet side dish made out of vegetables and/or meat is historically referred to as a ‘curry’ – especially those yellow, Indian-inspired powders and sauces with high proportions of turmeric. The dishes are given specific names that indicate the meat and/or vegetable, method of cooking, or the particular spices used
The Elements of the Curry
Spices are the essential ingredients of the ‘Curry’. Without it, it would just be like a coffee without coffee beans. The spices are called ‘Masala’ in India. There is a misunderstanding among the Americans that they believe ‘Curry’ is a spice. Curry powders are available in many supermarkets abroad. But that is a mixture of spices to be put in a Curry. The basic spices needed to make a Curry are black pepper, chilli pepper, cloves, coriander, fenugreek, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, ginger turmeric and nutmeg. You can mix your own curry powder according to your tastes or buy it ready mixed in the spice aisle of your grocery store.
Curry Leaves – Seasoning
Curry Leaves are a kind of herbs you find in India. It is called ‘kadhi-patta’ in hindi. They look like miniature lemon leaves and are grown at homes and also grow wild in most forest regions of India and are used as a seasoning. The curry leaf plant, is a native of Tropical Asia, southern India and Sri Lanka. It is used in curries as well as other food dishes in India. It is best to use a fresh piece, fried in hot oil and ghee for the aroma. It is largely a seasoning leaf, to be used only in specific curries to provide specific tanginess. Very rarely it is used ground along with other spices, more often than not, it is the first thing in the oil to be used to make the curry itself. Not surprisingly, the curry then acquires a personality of its own.
The second level of seasoning
A mixture of garlic, ginger, tomatoes and onions forms the second level of seasoning for Curry. These are the other most essential ingredients for any Indian food other than the spices. These form the base for the spicy and tangy taste of Indian food. Anything without these are considered bland. The famous ginger-garlic paste is made by scraping the skin from the Ginger and garlic. Cut the ginger into small chunks and blend it together with garlic with a little water. It can stored in clean air tight jar by adding a little quantity of oil.
The Popular types of Curry
1. Chicken tikka Masala – Its a mild curry dish of chicken in a tomato-based sauce, cooked tandoori style (in a charcoal-fired oven). The sauce usually includes tomato and either cream or coconut cream and various spices. The sauce or chicken pieces (or both) are often coloured orange or red with food dyes. Other tikka masala dishes replace chicken with lamb, fish or paneer.
2. Korma – Korma is prepared with butter and thickened with single cream and coconut milk to give a very, very mild creamy sauce. Spicing would be more subtle, and there would be more use of aromatic spices such as cardomom, clove and cinnamon rather than the more robust spices such as chilli, cumin, black pepper etc.
3. Madras Curry – Madras curry is a spicy curry which originates in the South of India. This curry can accompany vegetables or meats, and it can feature a wide range of ingredients, although chili peppers are usually a fundamental ingredient. Many Indian restaurants offer various foods with Madras curry, ranging from chicken to lentils.
4. Jalfrezi – It is a dry-fried chicken curry, with delicious mix of green peppers (also known as capsicum or bell peppers or Shimla mirch), onions, green chillies and tomatoes. It has a creamy, clingy gravy. It also consists of paneer combined with mixed bell peppers tempered and saute in spicy masala. It is also known as ‘kadai paneer’.
5. Vindaloo – Vindaloo, a speciality of central and southwestern India, is prepared with roasted spice blend including mustard seeds, cumin seeds, ginger, peppercorns, fenugreek seeds, cloves and coriander seeds. Red chiles are a must and tamarind concentrate is favored. Vindaloo sauce is typically combined with meat and served with rice.
6. Rogan Ghosh – Rogan josh is an aromatic curry dish. Rogan means clarified butter in Persian, while Josh means hot or passionate. Rogan Josh thus means meat cooked in clarified butter at intense heat. It consists of a mixture of spices like paprika for its red colour, aniseed, cloves, cumin, cinnamon, and many others. Many variations have ginger, garlic, and yoghurt, and some also use tomatoes.