Curry is a delicious Asian seasoning with an interesting history, and multiple uses. Today I am sharing with you my own curry blend. So, what prompted me to do this? After all, you can buy curry in the store, right? Well, I thought, I already make my own chili powder, and garam masala why not make my own curry? It’s that simple.
Curry is not a single spice, but a blend. Varieties of curry differ from region to region not only in flavor, but also in color, pungency and aroma. The word curry is the anglicized version of the Tamil (oldest written Indian language) word kari, meaning stew.
Curry is considered one of the world’s oldest seasonings, with documented evidence of a similar mixture being used in ancient Mesopotamia. Although curry is mostly associated with India, many other countries in the Asian continent have a multitude of curry dishes in their culinary repertoire.
Thai food, for example, has many dishes that use red and or green curry. My daughter who travels extensively throughout Thailand raves about the various curries. Next summer I will be spending three weeks with her in that part of the world savoring all the wondrous curry dishes I have heard about, and can almost taste. I can’t wait!
Curry derives its intense golden hue from turmeric, a root similar to ginger; it is used by Buddhist monks to dye their robes. Formerly saffron was used for this purpose, but given its rising cost, turmeric was found to be an acceptable substitute. Tamil women dye their hands and soles of their feet with turmeric for wedding ceremonies. This practice is akin to the use of henna by Middle Eastern women. Other commonly found ingredients in curry are: cumin, cardamon, cayenne, coriander, fenugreek (a plant from the clover family), ginger and black pepper.
I recently received an extensive lesson on the different types of curries in Asia, how they spread east, and also how the different countries enjoy curry given dietary restrictions influenced by both religious and environmental constraints. My source for this wealth of information is a dear Japanese colleague who is an authority on Asian Studies and Cultures. “Did you know”, my friend said “that because the British introduced curry to Japan, the Japanese were, for a long time, under the impression that curry was a western dish?” I had no idea!
My friend also informed me that curry dishes in Northern India are very different from those in Southern India. In Northern India for example, curry sauces are made with yogurt, whereas those in southern India use coconut milk. Why? Well, northern India is mountainous and developed largely as pastoral societies. Southern India, on the other hand, is mainly vegetarian and has an abundance of palm trees. Religious dietary laws also come into play.
So, what are you waiting for? Get blending. And, of course feel free to add your own spin. That’s what it’s all about!
Curry: History and Recipe
Here is my homemade Indian or Asian style curry powder that I use in many recipes. This will make about 3/4 cup batch you can store in a glass jar in a cool dry place.
- Mix all ingredients in a glass jar.
- Shake well.
- Store in a cool dry place for up to 6 months.