Curry powder isn’t a “thing” unto itself, but rather a blend of spices, used to simulate the masalas widely used in Indian, Asian and some African cuisines. It is surprisingly flexible, depending on how much you use and what spices you choose to include, but absolutely delicious. Curry may well be one of the oldest continuously prepared cuisines in human history. It is know that turmeric, cardamom, black pepper and mustard were harvested in India, as far back as 3000 BC. I’ve read that, within the last few years, a couple of scientists from Washington State University discovered traces of curry ingredients in cooking pots and the teeth of a skeleton, dating back to 2500 BC from the Indus Valley. That area was home to one of the world’s first urban civilizations, as well as Egypt, Mesopotamia and then spreading into what is now Pakistan and parts of India.
The word “curry” may come from the Tamil word “kari”, which changed over time into “curry”. Curry means different things to different Peoples. In the West, we think of curry in the form of a powder, which is a blend of spices, or of dishes seasoned with it. In India it refers to a stew or saucy dish, which would typically contain ginger, chiles, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and sometimes onion and garlic, as well as garam masala, an Indian blend. Garam masala (garam means “hot”, masala means “blend”) is a blend of the sweeter spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom and pepper.
In Indonesian, Indian and African where curry refers to a preparation, a sauce or gravy. The flavorings of a curry dish will vary by region, by ingredients used and by family tradition. Each preparation, i.e., vegetable curry, chicken curry, lamb curry, etc. uses different blends of spices for each of those different preparations. There isn’t a generic “curry powder” in most households. These early seasoning blends would not have been hot, as chiles were a New World discovery and made their way to the East and Africa in about the 16th century. Curry and curry powder continue to evolve and each Asian or African country or area has its own particular version of what we think of as curry.
The World of Curry
- Nepal: Masu is spiced or curried meat with gravy served with rice
- Sri Lanka: Common curries are: White (based on coconut milk), red (a large amount of chilli) and black (dark roasted spices)
- Indonesia: Rendang is the most famous dish and is considered a “dry” curry, which means the sauce is simmered down to a minimum.
- Malaysia: Malaysian curries use curry powders rich in turmeric, coconut milk, shallots, ginger, shrimp paste, chillies, and garlic.
- Thailand: Curries include yellow curry, massaman curry, gold curry, green curry, red curry, panang, jungle curry, khao soi.
- Burma: Burmese chicken curry is a Punjabi-style chicken dish without tomatoes or peppers.
- Japanese Curry: Invented in 1912 and uses onions, carrots and potatoes.
- Ethiopia: Wat is the Ethiopian version of an Indian curry and can be based on any vegetables or meat except pork.
Source: National Curry Week
If you have a particular powder you use and are happy with, then continue using it. If not, you can try using this one. It’s based on a basic blend, but I add a few little things I like. But you should feel free to make your own flavor choices.
Goddess Curry Dust
- 1/4 cup ground coriander
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons ground dried shallots or onion granules
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly, finely ground Tellicherry black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground Vietnamese cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel or ground star anise
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
- 1/4 teaspoons ground cloves
- Saffron-pinch, crumbled
- 2-3 tablespoons ground turmeric
- 8-10 saffron threads, crushed (optional)
- 2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika (optional)
Place all ingredients in a container (I use a canning jar) with an airtight lid. Shake to combine. Store in a cool dry place for up to 6 months. When ready to use, add to dishes according to taste.
Goddess Curry Dust Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
So, basically there is no “real” curry powder. This is the blend that works for me, but I tweak this depending on what I’m using it in. Also, I prefer to add the “heat” to the dish, rather than the powder, but add some cayenne or chile powder of choice to your blend, if you wish. So, basically there is no “real” curry powder. This is the blend that works for me, but I tweak this depending on what I’m using it in. Also, I prefer to add the “heat” to the dish, rather than the powder, but add some cayenne or chile powder of choice to your blend, if you wish. And I always add a good squeeze (that’s always good, isn’t it?) of lime or lemon juice to the curry sauce I’m making. That acid ignites the spice’s flavors and that’s what you want!
Also, I cannot stress enough that you toast your whole spices first, before grinding them. So, start with whole coriander, cumin (in the picture), cloves and sliced dried shallots, toast them in a dry skillet, cool them to room temperature, grind them and THEN measure each and make the blend.
It adds a fantastic layer of flavor that you just can’t simulate. The difference is clearly noticable…how could that not just taste better?
Do use caution when toasting, as if you burn any of the whole spices, it will impart a bitter flavor to the final curry and not only do you not want that to happen, there isn’t really any way for you to fix it!
Use curry powder more frequently, be flexible…think outside the box. Add less, rather than more, as these are very strong flavors. Add some to your next pot of chicken soup; add a pinch to tuna salad; add a large pinch to a vinaigrette and dress a tossed salad with chunks of pineapple and mango; and one of our favorites…
Sweet Curry Mayonnaise
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise (don’t use no-fat, but light works well)
- 1/4 cup Greek-style yogurt
- 2-4 teaspoons curry powder (it depends on the type of powder)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
- 3 tablespoons apricot preserves, melted and cooled slightly
- 2-3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Combine the ingredients in a small bowl; cover and chill for at least 3 hours, but 24 is best.
NOTE: The amounts are approximate and the optional spices are used if you’re not using the Goddess Curry Dust. I have used orange marmalade, hot pepper jelly and apple jelly instead of the apricot preserves. I usually may a double batch around the holiday, as it’s just good on too many things! I sometimes add some grated lime or orange zest, as well.
Sweet Curry Mayonnaise Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
Use as a dipping sauce for Coconut Chicken Bites, Shrimp Cocktail or instead of tartar sauce, with grilled fish or fried calamari. This makes an excellent Tropical Chicken Salad, chunks of chicken with diced red onion and celery, mango, pineapple, apple chunks and coarsely diced dates; top with chopped toasted cashews or peanuts just prior to serving. I always make a batch of this mayo just before Thanksgiving. The Eldest Son always requests Turkey-Mango Sandwiches. Slather the Sweet Curry Mayonnaise on good bread or croissants, add slices of mango, cold turkey and some shredded lettuce; that’s his leftover-Thanksgiving-Nirvana! Sometimes we add some cooked bacon, because well, why wouldn’t you?