I have to say, curry is hands down my all-time favorite dish and it will always be. Its sumptuous taste and marvelous aroma, given by a wisely prepared spice mix and loving preparation, hits my senses like nothing else. It’s hearty, comforting, healing… almost divine. Seriously.
But what is a curry exactly?
The term curry is actually quite ubiquitous, since it is used today to identify a large number of presumably South Asian (mainly Indian and Thai) meat or fish-based recipes, all more or less hot and spicy. But mostly super hot and spicy!
I say presumably since, in all truthfulness, curry, in its current form, may be a Western invention all together. To find out we must trace it back to its origin, which unfortunately is quite obscure.
Curry may have been inspired by a spiced gravy called kari, which was originally used in Tamil cuisine with stewed meat and vegetables. The curry powder itself is quite close to both garam masala, which is widely used in Northern India, and sambar powder, again a staple of Tamil cuisine. Use of varying mixes of coriander, turmeric, cumin and garlic in India date back more than 4,000 years.
So we know for sure that something started there.
The Portuguese first discovered and colonized India and started trading spices back and forth: they brought potatoes and chili peppers to India, and imported the curry spices into Europe. It’s no coincidence that the first mention of a curry dish is found in a Portuguese cookbook of the 17th century.
With the British colonization, the trade intensified and, starting from the 18th century, the curry powder mix (a mixture of spices invented by the British to enjoy Indian flavors at home) started to be widely available in Europe.
The key original ingredients of curry powder, as used in Western cuisine are only four: chili powder, turmeric, cumin powder and ground coriander. Most blends however will also include a number of supporting spices, in minor proportions, such as ginger, fenugreek, cardamom, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.
Curry powder can be found in varying degrees of hotness, from mild to super hot. We can use curry powder in a variety of food preparations and a “curry” typically consists of meat, fish or vegetables cooked in curry spices (used either as a mix or combined as individual spices).
You can enjoy both dry and wet curries, but as every Indian will confirm and if you want the real deal, the curry should be “wet”: i.e. the meat or fish should be floating in a deep, thick sauce, made with yogurt, tomato sauce, coconut milk, lentil pureé (dhal) or stock.
For a perfect curry preparation, the cooking should be divided in 3 steps:
1) Start sizzling the spices in vegetable oil or (even better) clarified butter. 1-2 minutes is enough to make them aromatic without burning. Next, stir in onions, garlic and ginger and stir fry until golden brown.
2) Add your favorite meat, fish or vegetable, and cook over medium-high heat for no more than 4-5 minutes
3) Add the ingredients for the gravy, cover with a lid, lower the heat and finish the cooking with a long simmer, stirring from time to time
Now, are you craving for some curry or what??? Check out below a few of our recipes for a quick and simple curry preparation: