You’ll find it on menus all across the world. Your grocery store has pre-made mixes, just waiting to be poured into a pan for a good night’s meal. There’s no escaping the “curry.” What started out as just gravy that accompanies desi food has turned into a definitive food necessity, often served with naan or rice. Various traditional preparations are now clubbed under the “curry” category and find takers all around the world.
Admit it, you can run but you can’t hide from the curry phenomenon. But do you really know the difference between a Madras curry and a tandoori curry paste? Are all curries created equal? Not quite so as we discover, in our stroll down curry lane...
Chicken Tikka Masala: Britain’s favorite desi food item is now considered a national property and is featured across most menus in England. Despite its cult status, the preparation cannot be traced to authentic desi cooking. Urban legends suggest that it was created for a British officer who enquired where his gravy was, when presented with a platter of smoked (tandoor) chicken. The chef then whipped up gravy using tomato soup and spices used with cream! This particular story has shattered several exotic illusions but till date, there’s no confirmation of this recipe’s real origin. What does matter however is that the chicken used is smoked in the tandoor absorbs all the spices and is soft and succulent. The gravy should be creamy and smooth to the palate.
Do Pyaza: Like the name suggests, there is a liberal use of onions in this famous curry. You might want to avoid this on a date as the do pyaza has a distinct taste that is heightened by the flavors generated by the use of onion. A literal translation of “do pyaza” reveals that onions are used boiled as well as fried in the preparation of this recipe. Boiled or ground onion creates gravy whereas the fried onion is used to fry meats alongside spices.
Jalfrezi: The Jalfrezi involves a method of cooking called “bhuna” where spices are cooked in oil to bring out aromas and flavors. By extension, meats are cooked along with the spices to conjure up aromatic and tasty delights. The Jalfrezi uses a slightly modified version of the bhuna methodology in that chefs will stir fry capsicums, onions and other vegetables with the spices and meats or vegetables, but with very little gravy as the ingredients are meant to be cooked in their own juices.
Korma: From Mughlai-Persian roots, the korma is a favorite especially in the Western Hemisphere because of its mild flavor. Delicately spiced, a korma features creamy gravy that is created with the use of yoghurt and/or cream. A tell tale sign that the dish is not prepared well is when you can taste curdled yoghurt in your gravy. Nuts like almonds are often used to create a luxurious eating experience and can be used as a garnish.
Madras curry: From the Southern regions of India, the Madras curry has a reputation for being a fiery, hot dish that is not for the faint-hearted. Although you wouldn’t find an identical Madras curry recipe across homes in Chennai, the Madras curry has become synonymous with a typical hot desi curry. Ingredients used can vary from restaurant to restaurant although the pre-made curry mixes seem to have a distinct taste that is slightly sour due to tamarind, and hot due to the use of chillies.
Pasanda: Often considered a food rich in taste, the pasanda features almonds very prominently as a main ingredient. The curry generated is mild and combines ground almonds (thickens gravy and adds flavor), tomatoes, elaichi or cardamom. Lamb was used traditionally in this preparation but other meats and vegetables have also found their own pasanda identities!
Roghan Josh: A famous desi export to the world, roghan josh is typically a dish prepared from lamb and several spices. A true connoisseur can tell its authenticity from the red color imparted from dried Kashmiri chillies. Roghan Josh is typically a Kashmiri dish but also finds its origin in some parts of Punjab. Ghee or clarified butter is used to cook the meat at a high heat and imparts a unique flavor to the dish, along with a multitude of spices.
Vindaloo: Another popular dish, the vindaloo finds its roots from Portugal, referring to a marinade that contains vinegar or wine, and garlic. Vinegar and garlic are generally used to bring out the flavors in pork and to tame the fat while cooking the meat. Red Kashmiri chillies are used to impart a dark red color and usually the heat levels are quite high although there is no standard set across the board. As the recipe found popularity, recipes using chicken and even vegetables entered menus everywhere.