Curry in the Kitchen
Curry powder is not a spice in itself but a mixture of spices that will create a pungent, spicy, and exotic flavor in any dish. Used since ancient times, there are about as many recipes for curry powder mixture as there are cooks. Native to India, this spicy concoction can differ widely from region to region and is often handed down from mother to daughter as a family recipe. Whereas Westerners refer to the powdered spice mix as simply “curry”, in other cultures the word curry refers to any number of sauces or dishes and not the actual spices themselves.
When using curry, or rather, curry powder, in the kitchen, be sure to use a fresh mix. you can buy premixed curry powder, but since all spices lose their flavor once they are ground, you will not get the full flavor unless you can get the mix very fresh from a specialty store. However, perhaps some of the fun of cooking with curry is in making your own mixture so you might want to buy the spices yourself and make your own special blend.
Curry can actually contain 20 or more spices, but many mixtures contain much less than that. One predominant spice is turmeric which gives the curry that yellow color we are all familiar with. Other spices that may be included are: cinnamon, cardamom, chiles, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, coriander, fenugreek, mace, fennel seed, red pepper, black pepper, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, saffron and tamarind. Curry powder can be very hot or mild depending on the spices and amounts of each in the mix.
Although most closely associate with Indian cuisine, almost every culture has some form of curry that they add to their cooking. In fact, it is a key element in Caribbean, Australian, South and Southeast Asian, and Japanese cooking. While Americans have been a bit late to wake up to this wonderful taste, it is becoming more and more popular in Western dishes today and can be seen in many restaurants as an offering on dishes that range from chicken to vegetables.
Curry can be used in cooking for sauces, marinades, soups, stews or in any casserole or even to spice up burgers and in chicken and potato salads. It’s a very versatile spice mixture with a wide range of flavor possibilities and can be used for anything you like. Once you develop a taste for it, you might find yourself putting it on almost everything!