Curry is an indispensible Indian accompaniment dish served with rice or bread. Indian, and for that matter most of the Asian cuisines, are incomplete without curries. Curries form an integral part of Indian and Asian food. They are usually hot and spicy and are very popular across the globe. Curries are of gravy consistency by nature and have a long history and types. Curries have their own traditions too. Curries are side dishes and mostly eaten along with a main dish like rice or bread.
Origin of Curries
The word curry is an anglicized version of the Tamil word Kari. It usually means gravy or sauce and eaten with rice and bread. The word curry has also evolved from the word ‘Tari’ meaning wet. In the regions of Pakistan and North India, any dish which has gravy or is wet is called a dish with ‘Tari’ irrespective of it being spicy or not. In Urdu, an official language of Pakistan, curry is usually referred to as saalan. In North India, typically, a meal consists of sukhi, meaning dried, and Tari or curry meaning wet. There are few historical evidences that curry prevailed in Europe much before colonization began.
Ingredients Prescribed by Curry Recipes
Curry recipes are so diversified that one can literally not count the number of spices used for preparation. A curry in India, typically uses lots of ingredients-powder, raw and roasted. What matters in a curry is the seasonings put into it. The ingredients that are commonly used as seasonings include curry powder or curry paste which is a mixture of ingredients like turmeric, mustard, cumin, coriander, fennel, fenugreek, asafetida, and ginger powder. Nigella seeds and bay leaves are also included in the recipe for curry powder. English curries are milder and often use black peppers and mild spices.
Popular Methods of Preparation of Curries
Curries are prepared using spices and seasonings. The flavor of curries is not entirely due to the curry mix that is added to it, but largely because of other flavoring ingredients that are added to it. Curry powder, though used in a number of curries is an optional ingredient in some preparations made with vegetables or meat, especially the Indian varieties where the flavor is enhanced by other ingredients like spices, onion and garlic. Some, Indian accompaniment dishes, especially from the South Indian cuisine, derive the name curry, owing to usage of curry leaves in the preparation of the dish. While cooking a curry, one has to start with adding the various seasonings, the major ingredients that constitute the curry like meat or vegetables are added next, followed by curry powder. There are different curry powders available in the market, each for vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Curry powders vary widely in their composition and they vary according to the taste preferences of the sub-cuisines. The vast diversity in the flavor of curries is mainly owing to this factor. For example, fish curry is prepared using different seasonings in the Bengali and Keralite cuisines of India. The former make a curry paste using mustard, ginger and green chilies, while the latter use coconut oil and red chili powder instead of fresh green chilies. The Indian cuisine, therefore, does not have a single variety of curry powder with the same ingredients for all its regional recipes.
Serving and Eating Curry Dishes
Curry dishes in Northern India are generally eaten with rotis and rice. Curries are either served in small utensils (as per requirements) or generally poured over rice. In the Eastern part of India, curries especially fish curries are served with rice. The curries are much spicier and served over rice. In Southern India curries are served with idlis, dosas, puris and rice.
Types of Curries
There are various types of curries used in the following cuisines:
• Andhra or Telugu curry – The curries of this place are generally spicy and tangy in taste. The spices generally used are red chilli powder, mustard powder, cumin seeds, asafetida, fenugreek, black pepper powder, and anise.
• Bengali, Bangladeshi and Oriya curry- these cuisines mostly consist of fish, seafood and meat dishes. Though all the general Indian spices are used, the curries of these cuisines are characterized by the usage of mustard and poppy seeds. The cooking medium is predominantly mustard oil. Though Bangladesh is not a part of India, its cuisine is quite similar to the Bengali and Oriya cuisines.
• Gujarati curry – The cuisine, which is mainly vegetarian, is not much characterized by the usage of fresh vegetables. Pulses and dairy products like cottage cheese are used for making curries. Yogurt and milk are used as bases for a number curries. Gujrati curries, in general, are not very spicy and sometimes a little bit of sugar is added for flavoring. Red curry powder is preferred over the usage of green chilies.
• Karnataka curry– curry recipes from the cuisine are mostly characterized by the usage of yogurt, tamarind, coconut and tuvar dal as a base. The curries are flavored with curry powder, which is made with local ingredients. Asafetida, cumin powder, coriander powder, mustard powder, turmeric and chili powder are the other spices that are used.
• Malayali curry - Coconut and coconut products are the base of any Malayali curry. Shredded coconut, coconut milk and coconut paste are used for making a number of dishes. Mustard seeds, curry powder and curry leaves are also added to most Malayali curries.
• North Indian curry – These are very flavorful and adequate usage of vegetables and spice mixtures made of clove, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, garlic, and bay leaf are used. The garam masala mainly made of these ingredients is a spice mix, the aroma and taste of which, never fails to make one’s mouth water.
• Pakistani curry- it is made by flavoring meat with different kinds of spices.
• Punjabi curries - Punjabi curries are now gaining popularity in a number of Indian influenced regions of the world owing to their flavorfulness. Masala( spice mix), ghee( clarified butter), malai(cream) are mostly used as flavoring agents. Sarson ka saag is a popular Punjabi curry.
• Sindhi curries – a curry of this cuisine may be made of vegetables, meat, fish or beans. Curry recipes are of two types-wet and dry. They are made using common spices, yogurt and dairy products. Sai Bhaji( a dish made of spinach), bhugal bheeha( curry made with lotus roots), besan ki bhaji( curry made with fried dumplings made with gram flour), jera and bhukiyoo( a dish made of goat kidney, or fried liver) are some of the most popular curries of the region.
• Pashtun curries – these are the ones that are prepared in the north western region of Pakistan and they are made of ingredients commonly used for making curries like meat and vegetables. Yogurt and milk are also used in preparing the curries.
• Tamil and Sri Lankan curries- A curry from these region may be made using the normal ingredients used for making curries. The curry recipes are characterized by thick textures and sour flavor. Apart from the commonly used spices, coconut, tamarind, poppy seeds, rose water and curry powder are widely used by the cuisine. A variety of curry recipes include vegetables, but meat, fish and seafood recipes are not uncommon.
• Chinese curries- a curry in this cuisine may be made using beef, chicken, vegetables, fish, or seafood. The curries are mostly of a thin watery consistency. The Chinese curry recipes are noted for the usage of the curry sauce which is typical of their cuisine. It is a delectable sauce made with Chinese curry powder, spices, soy sauce, garlic, wine vinegar. Shao hsing( sherry or mirin) may also be used in its place.
• Indonesian curries – a curry of this country may be made from different types of meat, vegetables, fish and seafood. Apart from the common varieties of meat, the meat of water buffalo is typical of the cuisine. Candle nuts, galangal, salami leaves, kaffir lime, lemon grass, chili pepper and terasi(paste made of shrimp) are other ingredients used by curry recipes of the region. Rendang (a gravy curry dish made with meat, usually water buffalo) and opor ayam, are popular curries of the region.
• Japanese curries – any curry from this cuisine maybe expected to include carrot, potatoes, onion, celery( occasionally) and meat( which may be mostly pork. Beef and lastly chicken may also constitute the meat part of the curry. The flavoring agent that is used for making the curry is available in the market as bricks. This is mixed along with the other ingredients of the curry. The hot temperature of the food being cooked dissolves the flavoring.
• Malaysian cuisine- a curry from this region, originally influenced by the Indian cuisine, is dependant on a number of factors which may be geographical, religious and economical. The essential element, the curry flavoring, also known as curry paste or curry powder essentially includes turmeric (a high amount), tamarind, coconut milk, shallots and belacan(shrimp in the pasted form). Cuttlefish, aubergines, mutton, shrimp and vegetables are the typical ingredients with which this dish is made.
• Thai curries- a curry from this region may be a yellow curry, a red curry, or a green curry depending upon the spice mainly used to make it. Red curry is made of red chilli powder, green curry is made of green chilies and yellow curry, obviously, uses a generous amount of turmeric, the most common yellow food ingredient. A number of local ingredients like galangal, lemon grass and kaffir lime are also characteristic ingredients of popular curry recipes of this region.
• Vietnamese cuisine – a curry, also known as ca re, from this region is a wet dish with a consistency thinner than Indian curries and it is less spicy too. The curry is eaten with rice and also as a dip with Vietnamese breads.
Curries are basically of green, red and yellow color. Green curries are less spicy compared to the red curries whose main ingredient is red chili. Yellow curries are spiced predominantly with black pepper rather than with chilies.