Everyday Food Blog

What is Curry?

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Today's recipe calls for curry powder, but what exactly is curry? The word can mean a variety of things, depending on the context. Read on to learn more about this South Asian staple and you'll be talking like a curry pro in no time.

The leaf: There are actual curry trees (really!), they're native to India and Sri Lanka. The fragrant leaves are used to flavor—curries! Leaves are dried or roasted and then blended into a spice mix or are added to the oil at the beginning of cooking to infuse flavor throughout the dish.

The spice mix: Our chicken curry recipe uses store-bought curry powder but, in southern Asia most home cooks are not grabbing a premixed box of spices. In this sense, the word "curry" represents a number of different spice concoctions used in that area of the world. In India, each region has their own distinctive curry mix, with home cooks personalizing the flavors even more. Most curry powders include coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and red pepper. Add additional ingredients like cinnamon, cloves, mustard seeds, or garlic if you want to make your own unique blend.

The dish: Finally, curry can refer to the overall dish, including the sauce, meat, vegetables, and rice (like today's recipe). The sauce in a curry dish is usually thick and gravy-like, making it all the better to sop up with naan.

So, are we clear on curry?

Comments (3)

  • avatar

    I am married to an Indian man, so we cook a lot of Indian food at home. This is an interesting post, but not totally accurate. Indian home cooks don't refer to their spice blends as curry powders. The spices used in different dishes are different depending on what is being cooked, and they are usually called "masalas." The most common time that we would use the term that sounds similar to "curry" would be if we were referring to "kadhi" which is a dish with a liquid gravy. The one my husband's family makes most often is yogurt-based, thickened with chickpea flour and with chickpea flour dumplings in it--it's called "pakora kadhi."

  • avatar

    Ditto exactly what D. Jain said. The word "curry" can also refer to a (usually meat) dish with a sauce. In the UK, they use the word "curry" to mean "Indian dish." That's starting to happen over here as well, it kind of drives me crazy.

  • avatar

    thank you a lot, i was confused about curry many times i'm Ethiopian we use turmeric as curry when i begin to sell spices people ask me about curry and i don't know it i spend to much time for researching what curry is but know your answer is helping me a lot thank you again now i can prepare my own curry with turmeric,garlic,cumin,,ginger,with little clove and chili paper.

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