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Curry

[kur-ee, kuhr-ee]

Curry is the English description of any of a general variety of spicy dishes, best known in Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Nepali, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Afghani, and other South Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines, though curry has been adopted into all of the mainstream cuisines of the Asia-Pacific region. Along with tea, curry is one of the few dishes or drinks that is truly "Pan-Asian". But specifically, its roots come from India. The concept of curry was later brought to the West by British colonialists in India from the 18th century.

Etymology

The term is now used more broadly, especially in the Western world, to refer to almost any spiced, sauce-based dishes cooked in various southern and southeastern Asian styles. Though each curry has a specific name, generically any wet side dish made out of vegetables and/or meat is historically referred to as a 'curry' - especially the yellow, Indian-inspired powders and sauces with high proportions of turmeric. The dishes are given specific names that indicate the meat and/or vegetable, method of cooking, or the particular spices used.

Not all curries are made from curry powder; in India the word 'curry' is heavily used in the southern part of India in languages such as Tamil, which is analogous to "sabzi" in the north. The spice mixes are known as "masala". Curry powder and Garam masala are both masalas. There is a particular north Indian and Pakistani dish, which is given the name kadi and uses yogurt, ghee, and besan. In Northern India and Pakistan, the word "curry" usually means "gravy", likely because it sounds similar to the word "tari" (which means "gravy" in many North Indian and Pakistani languages, and comes from word 'Tur' which means 'wet' in Urdu and Persian). Bengali dishes called "Torkari" or vegetables stewed/dry in gravy is another potential source for the anglicized "curry" since the British occupation of India started in Bengal before Madras.

Curries in Different Cuisines

Indian cuisines

Bengali cuisine

Bengali cuisine includes a plethora of curries that are commonly unknown to the outside world. They are known for their extreme spiciness. Authentic Bengali recipes are difficult to find outside Bengali kitchens, although certain dishes are popular, for example, the jhalfrezis and the prawn malai curry. Seafood and fresh fish are a great favourite with Bengalis, and a dazzling array of curries has been devised to accompany them. Mustard seeds and mustard oil are added to many recipes, so are poppy seeds, and these are flavours highly specific to the Bengali curries.

North Indian cuisines

Punjabi cuisine

Punjabi cuisine is mainly based upon Wheat, masalas (spice blends), pure desi ghee, with liberal amounts of butter and cream. There are certain dishes that are exclusive to Punjab, such as Maha Di Dal and Saron Da Saag (Sarson Ka Saag). Sandeep Bhateja, the world famous curry chef from Agra, India, is renowned for incorporating various roots into exotic curry dishes.

West Indian cuisines

Gujarati cuisine

The typical Gujarati cuisine is called Thali which consists of Rotli (a flat bread made from wheat flour), daal or kadhi, rice, and sabzi/shaak (a dish made up of different combinations of vegetables and spices, which may be stir fried, spicy or sweet). Cuisine varies in taste and heat, depending on a given family's tastes.

South Indian cuisines

Andhra or Telugu cuisine

Andhra Pradesh, one of the four states of south India, has its own cuisine. The main dish of Andhra/Telugu cuisine is called "Koora" in Telugu, taken with hot rice and ghee. It could be made of vegetable, combination of vegetables or meat and vegetable. It could be wet (koora, pulusu or gojju) or dry (vaepudu). There are numerous types of recipes with various combinations of spices and in various proportions.

The second course is any liquid/soup type taken with rice and ghee. It could be made with just vegetables, “rasam”/”chaaru” or vegetable and dal, called pappu and sambar or butter milk and vegetable, called “majjiga pulusu”, and many more.

The last course is rice with either curd or buttermilk. It is believed that this soothes the effect of spices and helps digestion.

Additions to the main course are appadam and pickles. Appadam, more commonly known as Poppadam in the west, is taken along with any wet curry, pickle and liquid. Pickle plays a vital role in the Andhra cuisine. It is directly eaten with rice, dal or curd.

There are again regional variations in Andhra Pradesh cuisine. Telangana, which is in the west of Andhra Pradesh, has dishes like Ambali, jonna rotte (Jowar Bread), Sajja Rotte (bread from sajja grains), and biryani (which is mainly influenced by Islamic culture), which are taken as substitutes to the usual three course meal.

Apart from the rice menu, there are certain dishes that are popular in all regions of Andhra pradesh such as biryani, upma, uppudi pindi, idli, vada, dosa & sambar, minapa attlu, etc. They are addressed as tiffins and are taken for breakfast or snack or supper or light lunch. The tiffins like puri, chole batore, chapathi and paratha have migrated down south from the Northern states.Karnataka cuisine

The curries of Karnataka typically have a lot more dal compared to curries of other parts of India. Some typical soup dishes include Saaru, Gojju, Thovve, Huli, Majjige Huli; which is similar to the "kadi" made in the north, Sagu or Kootu, which is eaten mixed with hot rice.Malayali cuisine

Malayali curries of Kerala typically contain shredded coconut paste or coconut milk, curry leaves, and various spices. Mustard seeds are used in almost every dish, along with onions, curry leaves, sliced red chillies fried in hot oil. Most of the non-vegetarian dishes are heavily spiced. Kerala is known for its traditional Sadya, a vegetarian meal served with boiled rice and a host of side-dishes, such as Parippu (Green gram), Papadum, some ghee, Sambar, Rasam, Aviyal, Kaalan, Kichadi, pachadi, Injipuli, Koottukari, pickles (mango, lime), Thoran, one to four types of Payasam, Boli, Olan, Pulissery, moru (buttermilk), Upperi, Banana chips, etc. The sadya is customarily served on a banana leaf.Tamil cuisine

Tamil cuisine's distinctive flavor and aroma is achieved by a blend and combination of spices, including curry leaves, tamarind, coriander, ginger, garlic, chili, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, cumin, fennel or anise seeds, fenugreek seeds, nutmeg, coconut, turmeric root or powder, and rosewater. Lentils, vegetables and dairy products are essential accompaniments, and are often served with rice. Traditionally, vegetarian foods dominate the menu with a range of non-vegetarian dishes, including freshwater fish and seafood, cooked with traditional Tamil spices and seasoning. This holds good for all the four South Indian states.

Other Indian cuisines

In other varieties of Indian cuisine, kadhi is a gravy - made by stirring yogurt into a roux of ghee and besan. The spices added vary, but usually include turmeric and black mustard seed. It is often eaten with rice.

Other South Asian cuisines

Bangladeshi cuisine

Bangladeshi cuisine has considerable regional variations. These include lots of Bengals cuisine but are known more for their original spicyness compared to Indian Bengali Cuisine. The heavy use of coconut milk is refined to the district of Khulna and Kommilla. A staple across the country is rice and fish. As a large percentage of the land in Bangladesh (over 80% on some occasions) can be under water, fish is the major source of protein in the Bangladeshi diet.

Pakistani cuisine

A favourite Pakistani curry is Karahi, which is either mutton or chicken cooked in a dry sauce. Lahori Karahi incorporates garlic, spices and vinegar. Peshawari karahi is a simple dish made with just meat, salt, tomatoes and corriander.

Sri Lankan cuisine

Sri Lankan cuisine mostly consists of rice and curry meals, and revolves heavily around chillies, spices, vegetables, and seafood.

British cuisine

In British cuisine, the word curry was primarily used to denote a sauce-based dish flavoured with curry powder or a paste made from the powder and oils. However, the resurgence of interest in food preparation in the UK in recent years has led to much more use of fresh spices such as ginger and garlic, and preparation of an initial masala from freshly ground dried spices, though pastes and powders are still frequently used for convenience.

The first curry recipe in Britain appeared in The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse in 1747. The first edition of her book used only pepper and coriander seeds for seasoning of 'currey'. By the fourth edition of the book other relatively common ingredients of turmeric and ginger were used. The use of hot spices was not mentioned, which reflected the limited use of chilli in India — chilli plants had only been introduced into India around the late 15th century and at that time were only popular in southern India. Many curry recipes are contained in 19th century cookbooks such as those of Charles Elme Francatelli and Mrs Beeton. In Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, a recipe for curry powder is given that contains coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne, mustard, ginger, allspice and fenugreek; although she notes that it is more economical to purchase the powder at 'any respectable shop'. According to legend, one 19th century attempt at curry resulted in the invention of Worcestershire sauce.

The popularity of curry among the general public was enhanced by the invention of 'Coronation chicken' to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Curry sauce (or curry gravy) is a British use of curry as a condiment, usually served warm with traditional British fast food dishes such as chips. Curry sauce occasionally would include sultanas.

The popularity of curry in the UK encouraged the growth of Indian restaurants. Until the early 1970s more than three quarters of Indian restaurants in Britain were identified as being owned and run by people of Bengali origin. Most were run by migrants from East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh in 1971. Bangladeshi restaurateurs overwhelmingly come from the northern district of Sylhet. Until 1998, as many as 85% of curry restaurants in the UK were Bangladeshi restaurants but in 2003 this figure declined to just over 65%. Currently the dominance of Bangladeshi restaurants is generally declining in some parts of London and the further north one travels. In Glasgow there are more restaurants of Punjabi origin than any other.

Regardless of the ethnic origin of a restaurant's ownership, the menu will often be influenced by the wider Indian subcontinent (sometimes including Nepalese dishes), and sometimes cuisines from further afield (such as Persian dishes). Some British variations on Indian food are now being exported from the UK to India. British-style curry restaurants are also popular in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In a relatively short space of time curry has become an integral part of British cuisine, so much so that, since the late 1990s, Chicken Tikka Masala has been commonly referred to as the "British national dish". It is now available (albeit in frozen, microwavable form) on Intercity rail trains, as a flavour for crisps, and even as a pizza topping.

The British Curry House

Curry is eaten in almost all part of the Indian Sub-Continent and outside, namely India Bangladesh and Pakistan, it has its varying degrees of style, taste and aroma, depending on local ingredients used. Bengalis of Sylheti origin makeup only 10% of all South Asians in Britain however around 75% of all Indian restaurants in the UK and Northern Ireland are Sylheti/Bengali owned .

Bengalis in the UK settled in big cities with industrial employment. In London Bengalis settled in the East End. For centuries the East End has been the first port of call for many immigrants working in the docks and shipping from east Bengal. Their regular stopover paved the way for food/curry outlets to be opened up catering for an all male workforce as family migration and settlement took place some decades later.

Restaurants that are regarded as curry houses are open to the same standards requirements as all restaurants and can be vetted by and reported to the local environmental health department of an area. There are now many up-market "Indian Restaurants", which, while they still tend to eschew the more authentic cuisines, nonetheless apply the same high standards of food preparation.

This cuisine is characterized by the use of a common base for all the sauces to which spices are added when individual dishes are prepared. The standard "feedstock" is usually a sautéed mixture of onion, tomato, garlic and fresh ginger, to which various spices are added, depending on the recipe, but which may include: cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, chillies, peppercorns, cumin and mustard seeds. Ground coriander seed is widely used as a thickening agent, and turmeric is added for colour and its digestive qualities.

Better-quality restaurants will normally make up new sauces on a daily basis, using fresh ingredients wherever possible and grinding their own spices. More modest establishments are more likely to resort to frozen or dried ingredients and pre-packaged spice mixtures.

Although the names may be similar to traditional dishes, the recipes generally are not.

  • Korma/Kurma - mild, yellow in colour, with almond and coconut powder
  • Curry - medium, brown, gravy-like sauce
  • Biryani - Spiced rice and meat cooked together and usually served with vegetable curry sauce.
  • Dupiaza/Dopiaza - medium curry the word means "double onion" referring to the boiled and fried onions used as its primary ingredient.
  • Pasanda - a mild curry sauce made with cream, coconut milk, and almonds.
  • Roghan Josh (from "Roghan" (fat) and "Josh" (energy/heat - which as in English may refer to either 'spiciness' or temperature)) - medium, with tomatoes and paprika
  • Bhuna - medium, thick sauce, some vegetables
  • Dhansak - medium/hot, sweet and sour sauce with lentils (originally a Parsi dish). This dish often also contains pineapple.
  • Madras - fairly hot curry, red in colour and with heavy use of chili powder
  • Pathia - hot, generally similar to a Madras with lemon juice and tomato purée
  • Jalfrezi - onion, green chili and a thick sauce
  • Samber - medium heat, sour curry made with lentils and lemons
  • Vindaloo - this is generally regarded as the classic "hot" restaurant curry, although a true Vindaloo does not specify any particular level of spiciness. The name has European origins, derived from the Portuguese term "vinha d'alhos", a marinade containing wine ("vinho"), or sometimes vinegar, and garlic ("alho"), used to prevent the pork from going off in the heat. Some recipes include potato, under the delusion that the word "Vindaloo" has something to do with potatoes ("aloo", in Hindi).
  • Phall - extremely hot dish using ground chillies, ginger and fennel.

The tandoor was introduced into Britain in the 1960s and tandoori and tikka chicken became popular dishes; Chicken Tikka Masala was said to have been invented in Glasgow by a bengali chef, when a customer demanded a sauce with a 'too dry' tikka (legend has it that the cook then heated up a tin of Campbell's condensed tomato soup and added some spices)

Other dishes may be featured with varying strengths, with those of north Indian origin, such as Butter Chicken, tending to be mild, and recipes from the south of India tending to be hotter.

Balti curries

A style of curry thought to have been developed in Birmingham, England which has spread to other western countries is traditionally cooked and served in the same, typically cast iron pot.

South East Asian cuisines

Indonesian cuisine

In Indonesian, gulai and kari or kare is based on curry. They are often highly localised and reflect the meat and vegetables available. They can therefore employ a variety of meats (chicken, beef, water buffalo and goat as in the flavoursome 'gulai kambing'), seafood (prawn, crab, mussel, clam, squid etc), fish or vegetable dishes in a spiced sauce. They use local ingredients such as chilli peppers, Kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, Galangal, Indonesian bay leaves or salam leaves, candlenuts, turmeric, shrimp paste (terasi), cumin, coriander seed and coconut milk. One popular curry is rendang from West Sumatran cuisine, not Malaysia as is claimed in many British restaurants. Authentic rendang uses water buffalo slow-cooked in thick coconut milk over a number of hours to tenderise and flavour the meat. In Aceh, curries use daun salam koja or daun kari (translated as 'curry leaves'). Opor ayam is another kind of curry.

Malaysian cuisine

Being at the crossroad of the ancient trade routes has left a unique mark on the Malaysian cuisine. Practically everything on the Asian menu can be found here, and the local fare is also a reflection of its multi-cultural, multi-ethnic heritage. While the curry may have initially found its way to Malaysian shores via the Indian population, it has since become a staple among the Malays and Chinese too. Malaysian curries differ from state to state, even within similar ethnic groupings as they are influenced by the many factors, be it cultural, religious, agricultural or economical.

Malaysian curries typically use curry powders rich in turmeric, coconut milk, shallots, ginger, belacan (shrimp paste), chilis, and garlic. Tamarind is also often used. Rendang is another form of curry consumed in Malaysia, although it is drier and contains mostly meat and more coconut milk than a conventional Malaysian curry. Rendang is originated from Indonesia but became very popular among Malays in Malaysia and Singapore. All sorts of things are curried in Malaysia, including goat, chicken, shrimp, cuttlefish, fish, fish head, aubergine, eggs, and mixed vegetables. So rich and different are the flavours that today Malaysian-themed restaurants are mushrooming globally from Canada to Australia, and Malaysian curry powders too are now much sought-after internationally.

Thai cuisine

In Thai cuisine, curries are meat, fish or vegetable dishes in a spiced sauce. They use local ingredients such as chili peppers, Kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, Galangal and coconut milk, and tend to be more aromatic than Indian curries as a result. Curries are often described by colour; red curries use red chilis while green curries use green chilis. Yellow curries are more similar to Indian curries, with their use of turmeric and cumin. Yellow curries in Thailand usually don't contain potatoes except in southern style cooking, however, Thai restaurants abroad usually have them. Yellow curry is also called gaeng curry (by various spellings), of which a word-for-word translation would be "soup curry" or "curry curry".

Other Southeast Asian cuisines

East Asian cuisines

Chinese cuisine

Chinese curries (咖哩, gā lǐ) typically consist of green peppers, chicken, beef, fish, lamb, or other meats, onions, large chunks of potatoes, and a variety of other ingredients and spices in a mildly spicy yellow curry sauce, and topped over steamed rice. White pepper, soy sauce, hot sauce, and/or hot chili oil may be applied to the sauce to enhance the flavour of the curry.

The most common Chinese variety of curry sauce is usually sold in the powder form. It seem to have descended from a Singaporean and Malaysian variety, countries which also introduced the Satay sauce to the Chinese. The ethnic Cantonese being most dominant in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, this yellow, Chinese-Malaysian variety was naturally introduced to China by the Cantonese, and features typically in the Hong Kong cuisine. (Interestingly, the Malay Satay seems to have been introduced to China with wider success by the ethnic Teochew, which are not dominant in the Nusantara, but in Thailand.)

Chinese curry is popular in North America, and there are many different varieties of Chinese curry, depending on each restaurant. Unlike other Asian curries, which usually have a thicker consistency, Chinese curry is often watery in nature. 'Galimian,' or 'curry noodles,' are also a popular Chinese curry dish.

Japanese cuisine

is one of the most popular dishes in Japan, where people eat it 62 times a year according to a survey. It is usually thicker, sweeter, and not as hot as its Subcontinental equivalent. It is usually eaten as karē raisu — curry, rice and often pickled vegetables, served on the same plate and eaten with a spoon, a common lunchtime canteen dish.

Curry was introduced to Japan by the British in the Meiji era (1869–1913) after Japan ended its policy of national self-isolation (Sakoku), and curry in Japan is categorized as a Western dish. Its spread across the country is commonly attributed to its use in the Japanese Army and Navy which adopted it extensively as convenient field and naval canteen cooking, allowing even conscripts from the remotest countryside to experience the dish. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force still traditionally have curry every Friday for lunch and many ships have their own unique recipes.

The standard Japanese curry contains onions, carrots, potatoes and a meat. Sometimes grated apples or honey are added for additional sweetness and other vegetables are sometimes used instead. For the meat, pork, beef and chicken are the most popular, in order of decreasing popularity. In northern and eastern Japan including Tokyo, pork is the most popular meat for curry. Beef is more common in western Japan, including Osaka, and in Okinawa chicken is favored.

Sometimes the curry-rice is topped with breaded pork cutlet (tonkatsu); this is called Katsu-karē ("cutlet curry"). Korokke (potato croquettes) are also a common topping.

Apart from with rice, karē udon (thick noodles in curry flavoured soup) and karē-pan ("curry bread" — deep fried battered bread with curry in the middle) are also popular.

Elsewhere

Other countries have their own varieties of curry, well known examples include:

Curry powder is used as an incidental ingredient in other cuisines, including for example a "curry sauce" (sauce au curry, sometimes even au cari) variation of the classic French béchamel.

In Iranian cuisine, a ground spice mixture called advieh is used in many stews and rice dishes. It is similar to some curries. Ingredients in the mix vary, but may include cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, allspice, dried rose petals, and ground ginger. It is usually mellow and mild, not spicy hot.

In the West Indies, curry is a very popular dish. The indentured servants that were brought over from India by different European powers, brought this dish, as well as their culture, to the West Indies. In Jamaica and Trinidad, curry goat is prominently featured. The sauces for other curries are usually thinner than a true Indian curry, but some exceptions can be made. Curry can be found at both non expensive and upscale Caribbean restaurants, and ingredients can range from Chicken or vegetables to shellfish such as shrimp and scallops.

Cambodia, Vietnam i.e South East Asia also have their own versions of curry. Note that both Cambodia and Vietnam have had many influences from Indian cuisine/culture due to South Asian travellers centuries before, as well as the Champa Kingdom found in central Vietnam.

Curry addiction

A number of studies have claimed that the reaction of pain receptors to the hotter ingredients in curries, even Korma, leads to the body's release of endorphins and combined with the complex sensory reaction to the variety of spices and flavours, a natural high is achieved that causes subsequent cravings, often followed by a desire to move on to hotter curries. Some refer to this as addiction, but other researchers contest the use of the word "addiction" in this instance. Additionally, curry addiction is an example of a colloquial use of the word "addiction" as the medical definition of the word requires continued use despite harmful effects. Since medicine has not shown harmful effects of curry consumption, the use of the word "addiction" is contestable.

Curry powder

Curry powder, also known as masala powder, is a spice mixture of widely varying composition developed by the British during the Raj as a means of approximating the taste of Indian cuisine at home. Masala refers to spices, and this is the name given to the thick and pasty sauce based on a combination of spices with ghee (clarified butter), butter, palm oil or coconut milk. Most commercial curry powders available in Britain, the U.S. and Canada, rely heavily on ground turmeric, in turn producing a very yellow sauce. Lesser ingredients in these Western yellow curry powders are often coriander, cumin, fenugreek, mustard, chili, black pepper and salt. It should be reiterated that curry powders and pastes produced and consumed in India are extremely diverse; some red, some yellow, some brown; some with five spices and some with as many as 20 or more. Besides the previously mentioned spices, other commonly found spices in different curry powders in India are allspice, white pepper, ground mustard, ground ginger, cinnamon, roasted cumin, cloves, nutmeg, mace, green cardamom seeds or black cardamom pods, bay leaves and coriander seeds.

Drinks accompanying curry

Non-alcoholic

Lassi is a yoghurt based drink that is consumed with curry. The sweet and cool taste of the yogurt-sugar combination tones the spicy tones of the curry.

Tea is often drunk with curry. Though the spicy taste of the curry, combined with the heat of the tea is considered adventurous, and is preferred by few.

Alcoholic

  • Lager is a popular accompaniment to curry, particularly in the United Kingdom, with popular brands being Kingfisher and Cobra
  • Wine is increasingly popular with curry, especially amongst those who seek something refreshing and alcoholic without the added gas of a lager. Wine for Spice produced a range of refreshing wines developing on the cold-lager-with-curry concept. The Charmat method naturally second-fermented semi-sparkling wine is recommended lager-cold but, unlike a lager, the gas is natural. Mass-produced lager has carbon dioxide injected into it, which produces larger bubbles than a second fermentation.

Wine for Spice's formula for Matching Wine with Curry is: naturally second-fermented semi-sparkling wine; lager-cold; good acidity; no tannin; no oak chips; moderate alcohol; sweetness of wine rising with chili heat.

Health benefits

Some studies have shown that ingredients in curry may help to prevent certain diseases, including colon cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

See also

References

Further reading

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