Originally Posted by chicklady
I always figured it was all called curry for us westeners cause we couldn't pronounce the actual name the right way anyway :p
I have a series of packaged "curries". all with different names and flavors. It says right on the package that it's for the time and talent challenged and while not as good as freshly ground spices, it's as close as you'll come without the effort (they aren't quite so blunt about it :D) Don't know how authentic they are, as I've never been to India. Somehow, I think most of us would be shocked at the difference in real chinese, indian, japanese, etc, food.
Sometimes, its not the ingredients (some are very Indian, some not) but what you do with them. Above I mentioned that 'curry' is not a sauce, but a gravy. By that I mean one has to develop th flavours, not just throw a lot of flavours together. And develop means change the flavours of the ingredients or bring out the flavours that are there.
One problem with spice blends is that they have to be added at one time. In Indian cooking, spices are usually added individually, or at least in small mixes, to accomplish different things.
Spices, such as the 'woody' ones, (cassia [often called cinnamon] cardamom, cloves and nutmeg/mace) need to be extracted into hot oil/fat/ghee, so these should be added at the beginning of cooking, when there is only oil present in the cooking dish. Adding these spices while onions are frying also works well in some dishes. Coriander and cumin powders depen in colour and fom nutty/roast flavours, and are added just before water-based liquids, as may chilli powder and turmeric, both of which have components which only dissolve in oil. Ginger and fennel I would add after water-based ingredients have been added, to reduce the likelihood of burning. So you can see that adding all the spices at once is only a compromise, and not conducive to preparing the best possible product.
However, even in India, spice mixes, to prepare only one type of dish, are becoming very popular, maybe reflecting the apparent lack of time the busy food preparer has for this task. Its a shame, as it may well herald the end of Indian food as we know it.
It also limits the cook to a few dishes; there may be only a small number of common spices used in many dishes, but 'quick cooks' could end up buying many tens of packets of different ready made mixes, makes no sense!
We may not be seeing the dhabba (the small spice box containing, typically, seven trays of common spices) by the side of Indian cookers, or those that prepare Indian food, regularly, for much longer.