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Old 07-25-2008, 01:11 PM   #1
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Just what is curry?

Growing up my mother served " curried rice" a yellow, spicy rice with 7 condiments, mostly sweet. She usually served it with chicken. I recently went to a Thia restaurant and ordered green curry; it came in a soup bowl with a spoon. It was out of this world, it was a thin white sauce, coconut milk maybe, it was served with vegetables and chicken with a small bowl of rice on the side. It was some what spicy, for some one not use to spicy food it was probably on the hot side.
This got me to thinking, just what is curry? Is it a blend of spices, or a soup, or a thin stew? Could someone please enlighten me as to what it is suppose to be. Is Thia curry different then Indian curry, if so in what way. Thanks

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Old 07-25-2008, 01:21 PM   #2
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just what is curry? Is it a blend of spices
^^
This.

All curry really denotes is a blend of spices. It varies from region to region and could encompass almost anything.

A lot of ppl associate "curry" with the distinctive curry powder available in the US. I'm pretty sure that the FDA has decided that anything labeled simply as "curry power" has to include certain ingredients at certain ratios. I'm thinking this was modeled after the Indian Madras curry powder.

So, since it just means a blend of spices... you're going to have to talk to who put it together, cause only they know.
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Old 07-25-2008, 01:29 PM   #3
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There are curry leaves as well. What's the difference between curry spice and curry leaves?
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Old 07-25-2008, 01:30 PM   #4
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Thai curries are very different from Indian curries. You also get "curries" from other Asian countries. Curries will also vary conserably from area to area in the Indian sub continent. You get Nepalese, Bangladeshii, Paskitani, Goan curries and that is just the north.

Looking at Wiki - the etymology is derived from Victorian english corruption of native Indian words see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curry

So curry is really a generic term for a spicy dish.
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Old 07-25-2008, 01:32 PM   #5
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There are curry leaves as well. What's the difference between curry spice and curry leaves?
There is no such thing as curry spice - a curry powder or paste is a blend of spices. Curry leaves are from a plant that has a distinctive curry like smell. I used to deliver leaflets to a house that had some in the garden & I had to brush past them - lovely smell.
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Old 07-25-2008, 02:45 PM   #6
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I am with Bill on this one, curry is a blend of spices and herbs (mostly fresh) and chilies (dry or fresh).

It can vary from country to country and yes even the west has their definition of curry and the select spices that go into it.

This curry spice blend is then mixed with a base - tomato sauce and water, coconut milk, ground nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts) etc, heavy cream, yogurt etc. to create a gravy that is infused with the spices.

In Thai cooking they use mostly coconut milk as their base and in India, Pakistan and other east indian inspired curry's they use coconut milk, yogurt, cream, nuts and tomato sauce as their base.

In the West they add curry powder as is to dishes like chicken salad or dipping sauces, in the east you normally never use curry powder before toasting them in oil first.

Curry Leaves also know as Murraya Koenig is a pungent spicy herb that is normally used in Indian cooking for tempering. It's one herb that infuses it's flavor in the dish only when tempered, you don't get it's full impact if you just add it to a curry, you have to heat oil and once it's hot throw in the curry leaves and then add the onions, spices, base, meats and veggies. You get the idea.
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Old 07-25-2008, 05:53 PM   #7
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the word curry is not used in India to describe any dish, though it is seen on restaurant and general eateries menus in India to satisfy Western customers, though mostly it is called 'curry rice'.

What is curry? Well, its probably no help at all if I say, it isn't . Of the many hundreds of distinct Indian dishes, and thousands (I'm guessing!) variations, none of them are called just 'curry'. And they are made every which way. And they are not sauces!!!

It seems westerners coined the word 'curry' to describe spice laden dishes, although in India, curry powder is not used, and there are some dishes that are made without any spice!

What you had in the Thai restaurant was a Thai curry, spices and other flavours, boiled in coconut milk (as most Thais and others in SE Asian are lactose intolerant).

Really, it is only the ignorant (those lacking knowledge) that describe spicy sauces as curries, they should really be called by their proper local name. After all, are all water-based flavoured liquids served as a first course just called 'soup'? No, or they shouldn't be, when we can be much more prosaic.

Curry leaves as Yakuta.

Waaza

and how can Indian or Chinese food be called ethnic? Global village? I think not on here.
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Old 07-25-2008, 07:17 PM   #8
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waaza, your post made me smile and yes you are right in India we never called anything curry. Everything has a name as you said and not all Indian food is curry.

I find it funny when people sprinkle curry powder on some potatoes and call it curried potatoes. I am especially surprised when I see Indians do this on T.V. A great example of this was that girl Nipa on foodtv. I was shocked at her cooking ability and I found it rather hilarious when the judges tried to tell her that they saw something special in her.

I cook as a hobby and as a creative outlet , I would not subject myself to that sort of criticism but it bothers me when they cannot find someone who who cannot cook authentic dishes and express their culinary view point.
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Old 07-26-2008, 09:25 AM   #9
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It's my understanding that curry is a term for a cooking method - make a base with aromatics, add a spice blend and/or herbs and liquid, then simmer meats, veggies and/or tofu in the mixture.
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Old 07-26-2008, 12:59 PM   #10
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It's my understanding that curry is a term for a cooking method - make a base with aromatics, add a spice blend and/or herbs and liquid, then simmer meats, veggies and/or tofu in the mixture.
Are we talking Indian dishes? All those not from Indian sub-continent are at least second generation, and therefore modifications (or variations on a theme!)

AFAIK, 'curry' just means a spicy dish, and the implication is from India (originally). As mentioned above, it not a term generally used in India, but often used in SE Asia, China, even Japan, and the West Indies, as well as all the general Indian diaspora.

Not sure what you mean by aromatics (I suspect you might mean onion, garlic, ginger and chillies). Your outline method is one of hundreds which are used, with maybe twenty different techniques.

Don't think of a 'curry' as a sauce, but a spiced gravy, made from the juices of the meat. Vegetable dishes tend to be drier. Curries are not normally sauces in which to poach meat, though this does describe some Bengali fish dishes quite well, and fish/shellfish dishes in general.

In other countries, the 'curry' is more like a poaching sauce, so Thai curries, red, yellow, green and masaman ones, are spices and other flavours simmered together. Chinese curry is a boiled sauce, as is Japanese, the flavour for which is usually sold as a block, like chocolate. But IMHO, only Indian sub-continent dishes are truely great dishes, the rest pale imitations.
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Old 07-26-2008, 01:10 PM   #11
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I just had an Alzheimers class at work this week and we were discussing some foods and curry is one of the things that came up that they recommended people incorporate in their diet.


Here's an interesting read regarding research at Rush Universty Medical Center.......Alzheimer's Disease and Food
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Old 07-26-2008, 02:17 PM   #12
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Thanks to all of you for enlightening me about "curry" I am now going to sit an ponder all that was said, then try dabbling in some dishes. Looks like a trip or two the the library for some recipes. Thanks again
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Old 07-26-2008, 05:22 PM   #13
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why go to the library, Elf??

Why not Google for some. Most of the recipes on the net are OK, maybe not great, but look at ones on this, and other forums first. If in doubt, post here to see what people's opinions are. Don't post the recipe, just the url. Or if you don't know what to look for, post your needs/wants here, and we will do what we can to help.
Good hunting
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Old 07-29-2008, 04:00 AM   #14
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I found a curry plant this year and am thoroughly enjoying it. But yes, curries vary greatly. This time of year I love to do Thai curries because they are so dependent upon fresh herbs and I have a great herb garden. In the winter I'm more inclined to do dahl-based curries because the dried herbs are great.
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Old 07-29-2008, 02:15 PM   #15
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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.
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Old 07-30-2008, 06:09 AM   #16
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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.
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Old 07-30-2008, 11:09 AM   #17
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I'm afraid you're right. I do own both green cardamom and black cardamom, as well as some tiny little black seeds that start with an N (see how often those come out????) I'm guessing those are so old by now that they've lost their OMPH!
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Old 08-01-2008, 01:55 PM   #18
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I'm afraid you're right. I do own both green cardamom and black cardamom, as well as some tiny little black seeds that start with an N (see how often those come out????) I'm guessing those are so old by now that they've lost their OMPH!
if they are Nigella (kalonji in Hindi) then they will keep their lavour far longer than you might think. Just crunch a few and see! Its the powdered spices that lose their flavour quickly.
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Old 08-01-2008, 02:15 PM   #19
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Nigella! That's it. Never did figure out what to do with them.
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Old 08-01-2008, 03:48 PM   #20
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Nigella! That's it. Never did figure out what to do with them.

they are most often used as a sprinkle on naan. There is an Iranian/Indian dish with chicken using them, and they are a component of panch phoran, the Bengali 'five spice mix' which is fried in oil at the beginning or sometimes at the end of cooking a dish. Also, in Bengali cuisine, they are often refered to as 'kalo jeera', which can be translated as black cumin, although it has nothing to do with the black cumin (also called shah jeera [Royal cumin]) used in NW Indian cooking. Kalonji can be used in pickle making. Can also be used as a garnish on yoghurt based raita, etc.
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