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The Origins And Variations Of Curry

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Curry Spices mix
Curry Spices mix

Intro To origin of Curry:

Curry originated in the Indian subcontinent and the word comes from the Indian Tamil word “Kari”meaning a sauce or soup to be eaten with rice. It consists of a mix of spices of which coriander, turmeric, cumin and red chilies are almost always a constant. Curry powder as we know it in the West is a British invention that dates back to the 18th century. In the rest of the world curries are made from scratch by using these spices whole or grinned along with others for mixtures that vary according to regional traditions.

The four basic spices.
The four basic spices.

Curries can be divided into “dry” and wet curries, according to the amount of sauce created.  Dry curries resemble more spicy stir fries. In India for example, the spices are usually tempered, meaning roasted or fried in oil before being inserted in the food, whereas in Thailand, they are usually blended together raw before being used.

Already in 2600 BCE suggestions to use a mortar and pestle to pound spices appeared in some documents retrieved from digs in Pakistan. References to cumin

more than 2000 years old. These and other spices such as black pepper, cinnamon and cardamom were already being traded from Kerala in India as far back as 3000 BCE and arrived in the Middle East before the beginning of the first millennium.

Spice Road
Silk Trading route, Sikkim India

Here are a few countries that have eat curry frequently or even have raised it as a national dish:

Indian curry (Kari)

Curry leaves.
Curry leaves.

Indian curries almost always begin with a garlic-ginger paste made of pounding the 2 fresh ingredients and frying them in oil before adding other vegetables and fried or roasted spices. It also makes abundant use of “curry” leaves, from the fragrant Murraya Koenigii tree that grows in India, which gives Indian curries their distinctive flavor. Fresh coriander is usually added fresh at the conclusion of the dish.

North Indian specific spices:

Fenugreek
Fenugreek

  • Garam masala is more amply used in north Indian curries. Garam masala adds cardamom seeds, peppercorns, fennel seeds, mustard seeds and cloves to the basic four spices mentioned above, giving the curries a warmer more pungent taste.
  • Amchoor is dried green mango powder, used to add a citrus tang to curries.
  • Fenugreek a fragrant sweet nutty seed, is an almost permanent in north Indian curries. It gives a slightly bitter taste.

Tamarind
Tamarind

South Indian specific spices:

  • Tamarind, a sour pod is used in South India to give a tang to the curries
  • Coconut milk or cream often enrich the base of the curry soup oris used grated in the dry curries.

Indian potato dry curry.
Indian potato dry curry.

Bangladesh curry (Kari)

Bangladesh uses mostly the same spices as Bengali India and makes ample use of sumac, a Middle Eastern red seed used in dry curries or on grilled vegetables and salads.  It adds a tart lemony flavor.

A popular spice blend in Bangladesh is Panch Phoran (also used in Nepal) which includes fenugreek, cumin, black mustard seeds, fennel seeds and nigella seeds, (also known as black cumin or onion seeds)all used non-grinded and in equal parts.

Many curries in Bangladesh are tomato-based or use coconut.

Bangladesh curry
Bangladesh curry

Thailand curry (Kaeng)

Thai curries are usually served with abundant broth, more like a rich soup and include coconut milk as a base and almost always include kafir lime leaves and lemongrass. The spices are ground raw or roasted with herbs and garlic as a paste, the mixture being sometimes fried before added to the soup. Some curries add ground peanuts in Thailand.

Kafir lime leaves and fruits
Kafir lime leaves and fruits

  • Green curry, or “kaeng khiao wan”, gets it color from green chillies, lime leaves, lemongrass roots, fresh coriander and basil in the paste. It is considered the spiciest curry.
  • Red curry, or “kaeng phet” uses at least two types of red chilies on top of the traditional four basic spices encountered in curries all over the world and the lemon grass.
  • Yellow curryKaeng kari” is no doubt the one that resembles the most the Indian traditional four-spices curry with the addition of the lemongrass, kafir lime leaves and the coconut milk.

Thai yellow curry
Thai yellow curry

Indonesian curry (Gulai)

Curry spices 1
Curry spices 1

Indonesian curries, called “gulai”, use spices like nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon or even star anise in their dishes for a warmer, more rounded taste. The curries tend to be creamy through the addition of either coconut cream or grounded cashews or yet still macadamia nuts. Some also add soya sauce to their curries.

Indonesian Curry
Indonesian Curry

Cambodian curry (Kari)

Lemongrass
Lemongrass

Cambodia has raised on of its curry dishes called Amok to the level of a national dish. It is a dish of curry steamed in a banana leaf. The curry is red and similar to a Thai red curry in ingredients. As in Thailand, Khmer cuisine makes abundant use of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.

Cambodian Amok
Cambodian Amok

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