Be it a chicken curry or a mutton curry, a beef curry or a fish curry, a vegetable curry or a combination of two or more heroes of the dish, curry seems to be a thing of obsession for the foodie. Let us decipher the world of curries and discover the reason behind its romance with the taste buds.
The term ‘curry’ is a generic one and takes into account spicy preparations from Southern and Southeastern Asia (including Thai and Indian dishes), the South Pacific, the Caribbean Islands (including Trinidadian or Fijian) and other New World cuisines inspired by the Old World cuisines. It most likely owes its origin to the Tamil (a South Indian language) word ‘Kari’ that means sauce.
Curry dishes are synonymous with a lot of spices, and incorporate various ingredients and cooking methods to boot. They can be mildly spicy, extremely hot and spicy or not at all spicy. Oil or fat is one of the main components and some of the most common spices/ ingredients used include chillies (red or green), turmeric, garlic, ginger, coriander seeds, bay leaves and onions.
The fundamental unit of the dish, the spices that is, is either used whole or ground, dry or soaked, raw or cooked as per the needs and requirements. It is added at predetermined times and at different stages of the cooking process to allow the ‘masala’ to lend optimal flavour to the dish.
Then comes the cooking method that may include boiling, frying, braising or poaching. In most of the cases, the spices are first crackled, then fried and caramelized along with the other ingredients and then left for poaching. The result is usually a dry savoury concoction (in which the liquid has been purposely allowed to evaporate and reduced) or one that has a sauce or gravy (the base of which can be coconut milk, yoghurt, sour cream, spinach, tomato puree, onion puree, legume puree, chilli puree, ground nuts or fish/ meat stock). The final step is that of seasoning which is followed by garnishing to add to the visual appeal.
There are bewildering numbers of stews and vegetable dishes that come under the ‘curry’ category and many of them are available as ready to eat meals. Some have specific names, and the exact set of spices that go into a curry dish are more often than not influenced by factors like regional cultural traditions, religious practices and family preferences to highlight a few.