Classic Curry: Step-by-step Instructions

Curry-Powder-mildDid you ever notice: some of the warmest places in the world are the ones whose cuisines prominently feature curry dishes?

Something about the curry’s mix of “hot” spices, onion, ginger, and garlic, lets the mind wander away from the discomfort of the sweaty world outside.

Also? Biological reactions to spicy food work well in a hot, hot climate. When truly fiery-hot dishes make you sweat (think Thai Flavors’ curry made at the highest “5-star” spice level), the sweating actually lowers your body temperature and makes you feel cooler! It’s got a scientific name, too: it’s called gustatory facial sweating (ooo, sounds so attractive). (Isn’t science awesome?)

So, we’re embracing the August heat (all that abundant sunshine! and the omnipresent humidity!) this week, and shining the spotlight on curry, the truly international dish. For many of us, the mention of Indian cuisine immediately conjures a vision of curry, perhaps the quintessential dish of the Indian subcontinent.

Curry is the blend of spices [ever-changing, but almost always featuring turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, cardamom, and red pepper, among others] that adds vivid flavor and brilliant color to foods. Different curries can be mild, or lightly sweet, or very hot and spicy. Curry powder is used in cuisines of India, Africa, Jamaica, Malaysia, Thailand and China.

This week, for our Saturday Samples in the shop, and in our SpicyBytes newsletter we’re shining the “ingredient spotlight” on our curry spice blends: Mild and Hot Curry Powders, and Madras Curry Powder.

Want to make a curry? We’ve got lots of curries (and curry-themed recipes) in the AllSpice recipe database.

Want to experiment and create your own curry recipe? We’ve got step-by-step instructions for making your own delicious curry at home:

antonio_tahhan_minced_onionsMincing words (and onions). Many, if not most, curry recipes call for starting with browning a chopped-up onion. If you are using onion, mince it as finely as you can before adding to the heated oil in the skillet or Dutch oven. Cook those onions until they are soft, transulcent, and just golden brown. Take care to not over-brown or burn the onions!

Salty language. While you’re browning those onions, add a pinch or two of salt – this helps keep them from over-browning (a great help for busy, easily-distracted cooks like me!).

One, then two, then three. Nearly all curry recipes begin with sauteed onion, followed by minced ginger and garlic. When the onions are soft and translucent, add fresh, fragrant minced ginger and garlic (finely minced, or run through the garlic press or ground into a paste). Lower the heat a little while you saute these additions – avoid burning the garlic (yuck).

finecookingdotcom-indian-vegetable-curry-recipe_xlgPasty = tasty. Many curry recipes call for browning the spices, too, after the “tasty trio” are sauteed. You may choose to use dry/ground spices, and those spices will shine if you mix them with a little water (tomato juice, coconut milk) while the onion browns. Add the spice paste to the skillet after the onion, ginger, and garlic are soft and fragrant. Cooking the spices seems to enhance the flavors of the individual ingredients, while also blending them together, making a flavorful, well-textured base for the curry “broth.” If the spice mix starts to look too dry (or smell a little too burnt), add a little more oil or a Tbsp of liquid.

Meat or veg? Yes. Now it’s time to cook up the “main ingredient” of your curry. Add the meat, poultry and/or vegetables, and stir them around to fully coat with the onion-ginger-garlic-spice mixture.  Cook over medium (or med-high) temperature long enough to lightly brown meat and “seal in” the moisture and flavor, 10 min or so. Exception: For softer vegetables that cook quickly (like bell pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, etc), wait to add to curry later, in the last 10 – 15 min of cooking.

And one more thing (or two): Now it’s time to add a little flavorful liquid to give your curry the desired texture and consistency. You can use plain water to turn your spicy mixture to a tasty sauce, but other liquids (think coconut milk, vegetable or chicken stock, even wine or canned diced tomatoes) will impart some extra flavor to your curry dish. Add the liquid, as little as a 1/4 Cup at a time, to create a broth or sauce that’s just the right texture. Bring mixture to a low simmer. Finally, add the “soft” vegetables, as mentioned above, and cook until those vegetables are cooked and the curry is heated through.

Serve your curry all by itself, or with rice, or with some yogurt (or raita), and some flatbread.

Onion photo credit
Vegetable curry photo credit