Crazy for Curry

By / Photography By Amy Robb | February 07, 2016
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curry in a bowl with spices

Many people misunderstand the meaning of curry.  Some believe that curry is extremely hot and always has strong tastes of spices and herbs. This is not true! Most people also think of curry as a yellow powder, but curry can actually be a leaf, a powder, a sauce or a paste.

When referred to as a sauce, curry is a blend of many spices, herbs and other ingredients cooked with vegetables or a protein. For example, Chicken Vindaloo is a tangy tomato curry cooked with potatoes and chicken. This has a stew-like consistency to it.

Curry comes from the word “kari,” from the South Indian language Tamil meaning sauce. The British anglicized it to “curry.” There are so many different types of curry tastes, colors and smells, depending on its region or country. For example, in Thailand they use curry pastes to prepare red, yellow or green curry. In India, curry dishes use more dry spices such as garam masala, a blend containing 20-plus different spices ground up into a fine powder. Asian curries tend to be more soupy and light in texture. Indian curries tend to have a rich, creamy texture in a thick sauce; however, in the Western part of India the curries are a drier consistency. Their curries are tempered with whole spices and use more of a stir-fry technique when cooking, using dry spices along with other fresh ingredients and little or no dairy. Curry can also be found in the West Indies, using Indian spices in more of a broth base.

I grew up eating curry my whole life. I remember the first time my mother showed me her spice box, when I was 12. A masala dabba is pretty much found in every Indian household. The circular box contains seven or eight containers, each filled with whole or ground spices. I was truly amazed by the colors and smells of the spices. She explained to me every spice and what each one was for. The frequently used spices kept in this box are for cooking curries and rice dishes. Turmeric, garam masala, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cumin powder, cloves and red chili powder are among the most popular spices. You can customize the box to your needs. Some households have more than one in their pantry. One is kept for whole spices and another for ground spices.

So the next time you go for a curry, remember: Every curry has a different taste, spice level and smell.

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