Curry comes in different flavors all around India. The word 'kari', which in Tamil means sauce, is known to have originated sometime during the ancient Indus civilization. Since then it has traveled beyond boundaries and has dazed many people around the globe.
With all the different variations of curries around India, all of them use different types of ingredients, which create different flavors and textures. Curry can also be classified by ‘dry’ or ‘wet’ curries. To make curry on your own, you need to know a cooking method called tempering.
- The word ‘curry’ comes from the Tamil word ‘kari’, which simply means ‘sauce’.
- In India, curry refers to a gravy or stew dish.
- Curries may include meats or are vegetarian in nature.
- Curry paste is a mixture of various dry spices and fresh herbs
- Chicken Tikka Masala is made with marinated pieces of chicken that have been grilled in a tandoor.
When the word curry is brought up, the first thing that comes to mind is an Indian delicacy, full of flavor and richness. Dishes called 'curry' may contain meat or be vegetarian. Curries may be either 'dry' or 'wet'. Dry curries are cooked with minimum liquid while wet curries contain significant amounts of sauce or gravy.
A cooking method known as tempering is essential when cooking curry. This involves frying spices in hot oil until fragrant so they can release their essential oils.
Each region also has its own specialty curry dishes, made from different ingredients and spices. Some popular curry dishes include Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala.
Curry in India
Not many people know the true meaning of Indian food. It is much vast than the staple Punjabi dishes that are served up at most Indian restaurants across the world. Each region has its own specialty, including curry dishes.
Northern Indian is characterized by high use of dairy products. Northern Indian dishes also heavily use the clay ovens known as tandoors. Dishes like the Chicken Tikka Masala and Korma both involve using the tandoor.
Western Indian cuisine is distinguished by the geographic and historical particulars of its three main regions which are Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Goa. Goan cuisine uses pork, beef, and fish more than other regional cuisines in India, resulting in curries like the Goan fish curry.
Eastern Indian cuisine is primarily known for its desserts. These desserts are favored by other regions in India for their light sweetness making an excellent finale to a meal. For their curries, warm notes of poppy-seeds, cardamom and khada masalas dominate the dish that sits atop a bed of steaming rice.
Southern Indian cuisine is not typically found on many Indian restaurant menus and differs greatly from other regions. Its curries contrast differently in their textures and can typically be categorized according to the drier consistency, or those having a soupier or stew-like presentation.
Ingredients of Indian Curry
Dishes called 'curry' may contain fish, meat, poultry, or shellfish, either alone or with a combination of vegetables. Additionally, a lot of curry dishes are vegetarian, eaten especially among those who hold ethical or religious views against eating meat or seafood.
Curries may be either 'dry' or 'wet'. Dry curries are cooked with minimum liquid which is allowed to evaporate, leaving the other ingredients coated with the spice mixture.
Wet curries contain significant amounts of sauce or gravy made from broth, coconut cream, coconut milk, dairy cream, legume purée, sautéed crushed onion, tomato purée or yogurt.
Process for Making Indian Curry
Before you are able to make curry, you must first know a cooking method known as tempering. This involves frying spices in hot oil until fragrant so they can release their essential oils. This is done at the beginning of the cooking process so make sure you have all the ingredients on hand.
When cooking curry, you need to be generous with your spices. Spices not only bring flavor but texture to your curry. Second, decide how you are going to cook your onion, ginger, and garlic.
You can either soften them without coloring for a lighter curry or cook them longer and caramelize them for a richer and darker texture.
Curry Powder, Paste and Sauce
The word ‘curry’ comes from the Tamil word ‘kari’, which simply means ‘sauce’. There are thousands of different types of curry around the world.
Curry powder, on the other hand, can be termed as a combination of spices. Simply put, it is a ‘dry mixture of spices’ that goes into making any curry.
Curry paste is basically a mixture of various dry spices and fresh herbs all combined in a food processor to make a thick spice paste. To create a curry sauce out of a paste, all you need to do is add liquid.
9 Popular Indian Curry Dishes
If you love Indian food, you should try out some of these popular Indian curries. The true glory of a dish really does lie in its adaptability, which is one of the many reasons why curry is a global phenomenon.
Here are some of the most popular curry dishes you can find in India.
For better or worse, Butter Chicken represents Indian food all around the world. You will find it on the menu at almost most Indian restaurants in the world. This bright orange Punjabi dish can be spicy or mild, and it has a very thick and creamy gravy.
Butter Chicken is usually served with fluffy naan bread
Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken Tikka Masala is a popular Punjabi favorite. The word "tikka" means pieces or bits. For this dish, marinated pieces of chicken that have been grilled in a tandoor, which is an Indian clay oven is added to a thick creamy and gravy. The result is a lovely smoky flavor.
Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the most popular curry dishes, perfect to be served as a meal for dinner. It combines the perfect balance of the creaminess of milder dishes with the spice used in hotter dishes.
Vindaloo is the hottest of all curries. The dish originated in Portugal, starting as a simple dish using wine vinegar and garlic. Over the years, after being introduced to Goa in India, more and more chili powder has been added, making the dish one of the spiciest curries available.
Vindaloo is a fiery, hot "sweet and sour" style curry. If you are not able to handle spicy food it is best for you to avoid this dish.
Goans love to eat it with pork, but it can be cooked with lamb or beef.
Although the Korma is a traditional dish originating from Northern India and Pakistan, it involves little to no spice, making it the mildest curry.
The flavor is more of a sweet and creamy taste, with the main ingredient being yogurt, coconut milk, and nuts such as almonds or cashews.
This mildly-spicy but rich north Indian curry features meat or vegetables that have been marinated in a mixture of yogurt or cream and then cooked in gravy with coconut milk. Often, it will be served with the addition of jaggery which is unrefined sugar.
Originating from Kashmir, the word “Jalfrezi” means stir-fry. The Jalfrezi utilizes what was traditional ‘leftovers’ to create a spice-filled curry fried with various herbs.
The dish uses ingredients including red peppers in the sauce, along with sweet peppers, coconut, tomatoes, and spices all cooked together.
Jalfrezi is made by stir-frying a mix of green peppers, onions and plenty of fresh chilies to create a base to which then the meat is added.
Just before serving, a small amount of thick, spicy sauce is added, making it one of the hottest curries on Indian menus. Jalfrezi can be a vegetarian dish as well.
Unlike many other curry dishes, Biryani is a mix of vegetables or meat with rice rather than just a curry dish along with a side of rice.
The Biryani is a mildly spicy dish and has more of a tomato based taste rather than a creamy texture. Biryani can also be cooked vegetarian style.
Pasanda is prepared by cutting the meat, typically chicken, into strips and marinating it in yogurt. The meat used in this curry is often only the best, prime cuts as the name ‘pasanda’ originates from the Urdu word meaning ‘favorite’.
Peppercorns, garlic, and cumin are commonly used as the seasoning. Pasanda is best accompanied by naan bread.
Dhansak combines the tastes of hot, sweet, and sour, giving this curry dish a unique and rich flavor. The Dhansak, like Biryani, is on the medium level of the heat scale, using lentils, sugar, and lemon to counteract the use of fresh chili.
Dhansak consists of mostly mutton or lamb as the main ingredient.
Bhuna is made by frying different spices, including turmeric, chili powder, cumin and ginger in oil to bring out the flavor. A traditional Bhuna only uses this combination of fried spices with the meat of choice to create organic flavors.
Bhuna is a hot curry as fresh green chili is used without any use of cream or yogurt.
Indian Curry Recipes
While there are practically as many Indian curry variations as there are provinces and sub-regions in India, many of the most popular dishes are recognizable all over the world.
There is the famed Chicken Tikka Masala, Vindaloo, and regional favorites like Korma, Chettinad Curry and many more. Here are some simple curry recipes you can follow.
For a vegetable curry, you can try making a roasted aubergine curry. Rich, fragrant and slightly sweet, this dish will make a great midweek fix. Baby aubergines are ideal for curries and stews, and they have an almost meaty texture that will bulk up your mix.
Add in a can of chopped tomatoes, coconut milk, and a few spices for a simple family meal. Try a traditional Indian side dish like chapatis. Use them to scoop up mouthfuls of curry and mop up the gravy.
Korma is an example of coconut curry. The meat or vegetable is first cooked, or seared, using high heat, traditionally using ghee, and then subjected to a long and slow cooking method using moist heat and a small amount of liquid added to the mixture.
Chicken Korma is a version of this dish. This mildly-spicy but rich north Indian curry will include meat or vegetables that have been marinated in a mixture of yogurt or cream, and then cooked in gravy with coconut milk.
The vegetarian version of it the Navratan Korma contains nine different types of vegetables.
Prawn curry is a simply delicious and flavorful dish made of fresh prawns, onions, tomatoes, and spice powders. It is also known as prawn masala and is perfectly paired with rice, roti, or phulka. Indian cuisine is very diverse and most foods are made in their regional style with locally available ingredients.
The base of the prawn masala is made by frying the onions, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes along with the spice powders until it is aromatic.
This is what elevates the flavor of the gravy. For a creamy and rich taste, you can also add coconut milk at the end of making the curry.
Goan Fish Curry or Fish Curry Rice, as it is frequently called, is a staple dish in Goa. It is one of the most common and tastiest curries available on the menu there. The flavor is tangy and spicy, usually with a sweet coconut base.
To make this dish, the fish is first marinated in salt and lime juice. It is then cooked with masala along with onions and green chilies.
Water is added to adjust the consistency of the curry. You then get this lovely fish curry with a spicy and tangy taste in every bite.
Simple yet delicious, lamb curry is also an easy and wholesome meal to put together. Some Indians make meat curry with goat meat, but the lamb version has a heartier and richer taste. This lamb curry is a masala, meaning that the sauce is made with tomatoes and onions cooked with spices.
The lamb that has been marinated in salt, ginger, garlic, and turmeric are sautéed with onions, green chilies, and cardamoms.
When it is almost ready, the tomato puree is then poured in. Lamb curry is delicious when paired with plain rice, a salad, and raita.
A fiery curry with a coconut base, spicy Malvani curry is made with fresh Malvani masala. A perfect recipe for all the spice lovers out there, Malvani chicken curry is a hot, delectable chicken recipe from the Konkan region of Maharashtra.
To make this dish, first, you need to dry roast all the ingredients of the Malvani masala in a pan and coarsely grind them. You will then stir fry them with onions.
The chicken is then added, along with some water. Finally, this can be garnished with coriander leaves.
Differences between Indian Curry and Southeast Asian Curry
Curries are a different story in Southeast Asia. Curries from Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia have a delightfully different flavor due to the usage of local ingredients. Lime and lemongrass are often used in curry pastes or powders.
For Indian curries, they are usually thicker and spicier than curries from other Southeast Asian countries. Many of them are vegetarian in nature. Common ingredients in Indian curry include lentils, potatoes, and okra. For their spices, Indian curries use a lot of cardamoms saffron, and poppy seeds.
Coconut milk is also frequently used as a thickener. Nuts often make their way into curries. Candlenut, which is white nut shaped like walnut or hazelnut, is a popular ingredient in Indonesian and Malaysian curry pastes.
In Indonesia, their curries do not just use ordinary meats like chicken, beef, and fish, but also meats such as goat and water buffalos. For the local ingredients, kaffir lime leaves, Indonesian bay leaves or salam leaf, asam kandis which are sour, and shrimp paste called terasi are used for their curries.
Vietnamese curry features ingredients such as coconut milk, potato, sweet potato, taro roots, and chicken garnished with coriander, and green onion. It is soupier than Indian curry. They are usually eaten with a baguette, rice vermicelli or steamed rice.
Comparison of Indian Curry and United Kingdom’s Curry
Although curry is not originally from England, curry has been described as England’s favorite dish. They have nearly replaced notable British dishes like bangers and mash, and fish and chips in popularity.
The main difference between curries in India and Britain is that the British ones are a little bit sweeter and thicker. In India, curries tend to be sourer, mainly from the use of tomatoes, which is a traditional ingredient in the north. Nut pastes are more expensive in India, so they tend to use more in British curries.
Indian curry uses a base of onions, garlic, and ginger. Spices are then added to the base to make the stock or sauce, followed by other ingredients like meat and vegetables. The combination of spices and key ingredients give each curry dish its specific name, such as chicken madras which is madras sauce with chicken.
British curry is a more modern version of the Indian curry. It uses many of the same spices, like coriander, cumin, turmeric, and, of course, curry powder. However, the British like to experiment with their curries and seem to be more daring, rather than traditional, with their ingredients, such as adding pineapple or tomatoes to a dish.
More recently in Britain, curry has become a broad term used to describe almost any spicy, sauce-based dish prepared in an Indian or Asian style. Some British even use the term so broadly as to describe a post-pub or late-night snack.
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