While many people think that curry is a particular spice, it is actually a mixture of spices commonly referred to as “curry powder”. This powder is versatile in both taste and flavor and varies widely depending on the region it comes from. Most closely associate with Indian cuisine, the pungent dishes made with curry powder can actually be found as a staple in many cultures.
Curry powder is perhaps one of the worlds oldest medicinal and cooking mixtures. Dating to ancient times, it was a favorite cooking aid in 1300s England and can even be found mentioned in cuneiform writings on clay tablets that date to 1700 BC.
When we picture curry, what most often comes to mind is a bright yellow color. This color is caused by the spice turmeric that is a common ingredient. However, not all curry powder mixtures contain turmeric and, in fact, curry powders can be as individual as the person making them. Some spices you might find in this mixture include chilis, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, cloves, coriander, mace, fenugreek, fennel seed, sesame seeds, red pepper, black pepper, poppy seeds, tamarind and saffron. Oftentimes, in India, the curry mixture is passed down from one generation to the next and the variety of spices used can vary greatly from region to region.
Often times we refer to a dish as a “curry” and many times these dishes that we call curries in England and America are not even considered curry in their country of origin. Combine that with the fact that curry has quite a different meaning in India where it is considered a sauce or gravy as opposed to a powder. You might find that if you travel to India and expect to eat curry, your requests may be received with a look of confusion.
But no matter where you are, dishes made with the spices of curry are tasty and interesting. In fact, this mixture of spice is so versatile that it can be used in almost any dish. It goes well with meat, chicken and seafood and can be used in soups, stews, casseroles, on vegetables and even on fruit.
Not only does curry taste good, but it could be good for you too! Ancient healers have often used the spices, particularly turmeric to heal inflammatory ailments and today, modern medicine, is just seeing the benefits of spices in treating arthritis. In addition there are some promising studies coming out on how curry spices can help prevent Alzheimer’s, memory loss and even cancer.