Guest Author - Preena Deepak
‘Curry’ is derived from the word ‘kari’ in Tamil, a language spoken in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu. ‘Kari’ refers to meat or vegetables cooked dry or as a thick sauce. The Brits who ruled India began to use the term ‘curry’ to refer to Indian dishes and now ‘curry’ is somehow synonymous with Indian food.
Indian food relies heavily on spices for taste, texture and flavor. Spices are used in their raw or pound form. At times a combination of spices are ground and used to impart distinct flavor. This combination called curry powder or garam masala differs in each region and depends on the food culture of each household. Indian recipes are often handed down from one generation to the other and so are curry powder mixes.
Despite the variation, curry powders have a few common ingredients. However the quantity and quality of spices used can vary, depending on the dish to be prepared as well as individual taste preferences.
Some of the common ingredients used to make curry powders are coriander, dry red chilli or cayenne pepper, turmeric, cumin seeds, black pepper and fenugreek seeds.
In India several grinding equipments are used to prepare curry powders of preferred consistency. Some dishes call for fine grinding while others require rough crushing of ingredients. Though traditional grinding stones are now replaced with electronic blenders and food processors, most Indian households have a small mortar and pestle tucked away in the kitchen to hand grind spices and prepare fresh curry powders.
Curry powders can also be prepared in bulk and stored away in air tight jars. However nothing can replace the taste of fresh ground powder added to dishes. It is also advisable to not store curry powders for more than 6 months as they tend to lose flavor.
Packaging of Indian curry powders is not uncommon and most supermarkets in India and Indian stores abroad have ready to use masala powders. These are a boon to those who find no time to grind their own curry powders.
Curry powders not only enhance the taste but also thicken dishes. The amount used can be altered to create spicy and mild Indian food.