Monday, November 4, 2013


From the brisk of Autumn, the chill of Winter and a season filled with grey cloudy rainy days…  Nothing provides more comfort than food. But the same pasta dish again?  The same soup and stew again?  You find yourself in a comfort food rut.  What can you do?


Get out of the rut by crossing international borders!   Forget your same ol’ blah soups and stews and warm things up from the inside with the enticing zest and spice of something YOU get to control the spice of… curry!  Change things up and don’t be afraid to try all the variations of food comfort as you allow your taste buds to travel. 

RED, GREEN and YELLOW.  These may be the colors of the Brazilian flag, a bowlful of apple and bell pepper varieties or the colors you see on a traffic light.  But when it comes to warm, spicy food, we’re talking about the colors of curry.

Curry is basically a gravy or a sauce and its thickness depends on the cultural twist. Curries usually contain fresh vegetables and meat.  Proteins vary between beef, chicken, seafood, duck, pork, water buffalo, goat, yak and lentils, whole grains and nuts, also depending on culture.

Bangladeshi curry is made up of spices – cumin, mustard, Thai chili, paprika, onion paste, turmeric. A lot of curries are based around the national fish of Bangladesh,The Hilsa fish. Malaysian curry is made up of spices and coconut milk, but they use shrimp base and this is what makes their curry different.  Indian curry uses yogurt or coconut along with spices.  Chinese curries are more subtle spices for a milder taste in their curry. 

Some curries have the meat and vegetables separate (ideal for Vegetarians), and vegetable curries are sometimes served as a ‘side-dish’ to the meat-based curries. Vegetables used in many curry recipes vary depending on the culture based on what is readily available geographically.    

Pakistani and Bengali curries like Karahi use tomatoes. Japanese, Chinese and Thai versions use potatoes. Caribbean curries like Jamaican Curry Goat will use Scotch Bonnet Peppers.   Much like most Western, Southern and European recipes, root vegetables which grow pretty much everywhere are the only ‘staple’ vegetables consistent with almost all curry recipes. 

Some curries feature odd ingredients, like Iranian curries feature rose petals, while Tamil curries will feature rose water. 

Every culture has their own twist on the curry. While most people associate curry with Indian or Thai cuisine, curry has a much broader cultural range than this.  African, Malaysian, British, Trinidad/Tobago, Indonesian, German, Pakistani, Nepalese, Caribbean, Japanese, Ethiopian, Chinese, Samoan, Iranian, Vietnamese and Sri Lankan cultures also celebrate curry in a myriad of dishes.

Red curries use red chili peppers. Green curries use green chili peppers.  Yellow curries use the spices turmeric and cumin.  Massaman curries use turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom pods. 

Phaenaeng curry is a Laotian/Thai curry which uses dried chili peppers, coriander root and coriander seeds, cumin (seeds) and shrimp paste. Khao soi curry is a Burmese curry that is more soup-based similar to Japanese curries and contains fermented soybeans and is more like a broth consistency.  

Contrary to what most people think, having a spicy curry meal won’t give you heartburn. Chili peppers actually rev up the metabolism.  But this could lead to overeating (which could be the real cause).   Actually, the spices that are in curries like turmeric, cinnamon and cloves all have one common denominator… they aid in digestion!  

Turmeric reduces inflammation and cumin prevents cancer, so adding curry to your diet is a very healthy thing to do. Studies have shown that the combination of herbs used in curry pastes and powders help prevent platelets from sticking together which form dangerous blood clots. This means that curry paste and powders could reduce your chances for heart attack and stroke! That alone is a great reason to eat curry. 

The key difference between Indian curries and Thai curries is the cooking time. Thai curries cook in a shorter amount of time, while Indian curries not only cook hours longer, but also use many more spices like black pepper, allspice and fenugreek in their curry recipes. Thai curry recipes, which include more fresh herbs, lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, galangal, ginger and garlic. 

Not all curry recipes feature the use of coconut milk. Punjabi curries feature more butter and cream, while yogurt accompanies Pashtun curries.  Dairy products are used not just for flavor, but to help buffer some of the heat elements of the chili peppers.  But milder curries can be made by not using whole chili peppers (it’s the seeds which make it HOT), and only using the outer chili.    

For most cultures, side dishes include rice and this is how the curry is served… over rice or with rice.  Other cultures feature wheat-based flat breads like roti and phulka. Chinese curries rice, but also use noodles.

When you travel, be sure to ask locals where the best curry place is located.  Chances are, you will find pockets of different cultures residing everywhere you go with their own version of curry.  This will help you broaden your curry experience.

Experiment cooking your own curry at home or go out and introduce yourself to a number of establishments in your local neighborhood which serve up curry.  Don’t be intimidated – try shopping spice aisles and look at recipes to try. Some spice companies specialize in pre-made curry spice combination packets to get you started. 

However you like your curry, have the courage to try different kinds so that you can sample curry from every culture. This will help you decide what kind you like best.  There is a fascinating array of curries out there and one or two or twelve…might become your all-time favorite. 
Add some flavor to your palate and spice up your life with curry! 

~ Athena & Tess – We Solved It

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