Too many of us Westerners have far too little exposure to Indian foods, and one in particular that we tend to avoid are curries because at some time we may have tasted something described as a curry that we found too fiery.
"Curry" is actually an umbrella term for many dishes throughout the world, particularly Asia, that are simmered in or covered with a sauce full of spices and herbs. There is no one specific curry. It's just a combination of flavors and textures, usually served with meat, chicken, fish, vegetables, or even fruit. As it turns out, the word describes any dish of meat, fish and/or vegetables that is served in or with a sauce. So, if you think you don’t like curry, you are really limiting yourself. There are literally thousands of different curry blends that range from sweet and mild to hot and spicy.
How Curry Is Prepared
Most traditional Indian cooks make their curry seasoning from toasted whole spices that they grind themselves. There are probably as many curry seasoning blends as there are cooks who make curry, and most of them contain anywhere from 5 or 6 to as many as 30 different herbs and spices. Some curry powders are hot and spicy, and some are much milder. The problem is we like to pigeon hole things so they are easier to understand, but you simply can’t do that with curry. In India alone, there are over 600 distinct types of curry blends and when you take other countries into account there are large variances by region. Here is a brief description of types of curry by region.
These curries are made with a number of toasted and ground spices called masala. Some spices that are traditionally included in Indian curry dishes include cumin, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, cardamom, mustard, fennel, and ginger. Indian curry dishes also vary by region.
More soup-like than their thicker Indian cousins, these curries are made from a paste of ground chilies, then added to aromatics (like galangal, lemon grass, lime leaves, and garlic) and coconut milk or water. The coconut milk-based curries are less spicy than the water-based ones since the milk calms the tongue. They are often described by color -- yellows, for example, are full of turmeric and cumin while reds and greens are dominated by red and green chilis. As with other regional curries, the sauce covers a combination of meats and vegetables.
They resemble the Indian style of curry (made from whole, ground spices instead of a chili paste). The British who colonized and ruled over India for centuries brought many Indian dishes to the UK and popularized them over time. It has been said that Chicken Tikka Masala, a popular curry dish, has even been dubbed the "British national dish."
Often made with soy sauce, coconut milk, and a bunch of spices, this mildly spicy (and usually yellow) curry tops meats, veggies, steamed rice, or noodles.
Curry is huge in Japanese cuisine. The standard contains onions, carrots, potatoes, sometimes celery, and a token meat (often pork) that's cooked in a large pot.
If you want to broaden your horizons within the world of food, may we suggest that you let your guard down a bit and try a variety of curry dishes the next time you frequent an Indian, Japanese, Thai or Chinese restaurant? You are very likely to discover some new tastes that you will enjoy along the way.