Let me start with what I know. Curry is a collection of spices rather than a specific dish and it can be a powder or a paste. That is all I know so we will learn together!
Google says Curry is a variety of dishes originating in the Indian subcontinent that use a complex combination of spices or herbs, usually including ground turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, and fresh or dried chilies. Curry is generally prepared in a sauce and typically served over or with rice.
While origanally shopping for the curry powder I learned that the ingredients are listed in the order of greatest amount to least amount so where all of them have several of the same spices blended they are used in different amounts. Let’s get into these blends!
My spice company sells 9 different types and I have tried 4 of them. The first one I tried is called Maharajah style and the ingredients are coriander, fenugreek, cumin, fennel, allspice, ginger, cloves, turmeric, red pepper, black pepper, garlic and saffron. Fenugreek is another unknown for me and Google says it is an herb similar to clover that is native to the Mediterranean region, southern Europe, and western Asia. The seeds are used in cooking, to make medicine, or to hide the taste of other medicine. The seeds smell and taste somewhat like maple syrup and the leaves are eaten in India as a vegetable. This was my first attempt at recreating the dish we had fallen in love with in Okinawa and I didn’t get anywhere near close, the dish was tasty but not quite what I was aiming for.
For my second attempt I went with the Vadouvan style with the ingredients of dehydrated Onion, dehydrated Garlic, fennel seeds, turmeric, cardamom, cumin, mustard, fenugreek, thyme, red and black pepper, ground curry leaves, rosemary, nutmeg and cloves. This was a chunkier mix with the pieces of onion, garlic and whole fennel seeds and it wasn’t what we were looking for either. I was intrigued by the ground curry leaves so I did another quick Google search and discovered that curry leaves are their own herb and are not often used in curry powder. I also learned that “some cooks use a combination of basil and lime zest to replicate both the herbal and citrus notes in curry leaves.” so that takes care of what curry leaves taste like.
The third try was with Madras style and it’s ingredients are coriander, fenugreek, cumin, fennel, allspice, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, turmeric and garlic. This one was a little closer to the final destination but still not quite right.
For the fourth and what I was hoping would be the final try I selected the generic curry powder, not designated as being from somewhere or named for someone, and it has turmeric, fennel, coriander, cloves, cumin, fenugreek, garlic, cinnamon, allspice and cardamom. I did get lucky! This blend is a little more mild, not in a spicy way as none of what I tried was spicy, but in just a less sharp kind of way with no one thing sticking out.
During my struggles to make my husband his most favorite thing he met someone who had also been on Okinawa and loved the curry and he had asked them how they make it and they had told him! It was like the heavens had parted and sunbeams and angel voices rained down upon me!! The very best part is that it wasn’t a family secret and that my local market sells it!! Amazon and Wal-Mart also carry it.
S&B Golden Curry is where the magic is! This isn’t powder or paste it is cubes The listed ingredients are wheat flour, Palm and Rapeseed (Canola) oils, sugar, salt, curry powder, MSG, caramel color, spices to include pepper, garlic, celery seed and mustard and some scientific sounding stuff. I know, curry powder is complex but these folks make a curry powder that they call Oriental curry powder and it has: turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, orange peel, pepper, chili pepper, cinnamon, fennel, ginger, star anise, thyme, bay leaves, cloves, nutmeg, sage and cardamom. Yes, this one has some different things in its mix so I decided to go looking for Oriental style curry powder in the online market and here is what they have to offer; Thai red curry powder with the ingredients: chili pepper, red pepper, coriander, cumin, ginger, black pepper, paprika, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, lime juice powder, galangal, lemon grass and cilantro. Galangal is often called Thai ginger but it isn’t really ginger “it has a more sharp citrusy, almost piney flavor, while ginger is fresh, pungently spicy, and barely sweet.” Kind of close but not quite the same so I probably wouldn’t substitute the Thai curry powder with the Oriental curry powder.
I will close this up with some chatter about curry paste. The curry paste most widely available are Red and Green, the color comes from which peppers and chilis are used. A quick search mostly turned up recipes for making my own and the one common ingredient to all of them is shrimp paste so that answers my question as to what keeps it all together. I also found a recipe for a yellow variety and the yellow color seems to come from the combination of fresh cilantro and turmeric because it uses dried Thai chilies and those are red. I am sure that if I wasn’t muddle headed from all the new information I would be less surprised that green, orange and red make yellow!
Well this has been an exciting little departure from the normal in the kitchen posts and I hope ya’ll learned just as much and had as much fun reading as I did writing!
Thanks ya’ll!! Happy cooking!