Indian curry is over 5,000 years old and the term ‘curry’ which is an English word is derived from the South Indian Tamil word ‘kaikaari’ or its shortened version ‘kari’meaning vegetables cooked in spices. Basically curry is a gravy dish or a stew like dish with spices and seasonings and flavoured with hot and sour tastes. Today , curry has become the symbolic British word for Indian dishes that could be eaten with rice or rotis.
Authentic Indian curry, one of the world’s fasted growing ethnic food trends, combines flavours, textures and pungency which are unique. Each region of India has its own distinctive style of seasoning while preparing a curry and a common factor in all the regional styles of cooking curry is marination and slow cooking which ensures the flavor and color of herbs and spices to meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables.
1. Spices : are derived from plants and are aromatic dried bark, roots, buds, seeds, berries or fruits. When spices are heated the aroma and flavour is released. Its advisable not to store spices in glass jars as they will lose their aroma and potency before the expiry date. Store in air tight containers.
2. Curry : the authentic indian curry often combines the following spices, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, cloves, ginger, red and black pepper as well as other spices. One of the popular spice blends used in Indian curries is called “Garam Masala".
3. Bhuna : bhuna is a Hindi term for cooking the various spices (Masala) in hot oil to release the natural oils and flavours of the spices and remove the raw taste. It literally means ‘fry in oil’ and most important process in cooking a perfect Indian curry.
4. Tadka/Bargar : bargar is a Hindi term for the process of frying whole spices is and is a technique used for the same reasons as Bhuna, to cook out the raw taste from the spices. The oil used should be hot and the spices added whole. It is important to take care to not burn the spices. The spices are cooked the moment they colour and start to float do not let them blacken. This process can be very quick especially with the small spices like cumin seeds and mustard seeds.
5. Masala : means mixture of spices sauteed in oil or ghee. Perhaps the most famous and varied is Garam masala, a major spice blend of Indian cookery where each home has its own spice blends. It is often added towards the end of the recipe, almost like a garnish.
6. Curry Powder : is made with many spice blends. Quite a few dishes in western countries like America and U. K call for curry powder which basically consists of turmeric, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, five spice powder (cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, bay leaf and cumin), with red chili powder. You can mix your own curry powder according to your tastes or buy it ready made at your grocery store. The use of curry powder is minimal in India and most are unaware of curry powder.
7. Turmeric : called ‘haldi’ in Hindi is a deep yellow powder obtained from grinding a dried plant root. Its known for its colour and earthy flavour in many Indian and Asian dishes. Turmeric has anti-oxidant properties and is widely known for its digestive properties and to fight against leukemia.
8. Cumin : called ‘jeera’ in Hindi is a spice with a huge variety of culinary uses. It’s a very important element in Indian and ayurvedic cooking. Indian curries and dry vegetables are mostly flavored with whole cumin seeds. Cumin is considered to have digestive properties and is also considered to have cooling properties.
9. Tandoori : describes a style of food unique to the north Indian state of Punjab. A tandoor is a cylindrical clay oven used in northern India and Pakistan in which food is cooked over a hot charcoal fire. Temperatures in a tandoor can approach 480°C (900°F). It is not uncommon for tandoor ovens to remain lit for long periods of time to maintain the high cooking temperature. Tandoori chicken is marinated before cooking and despite an intense dry heat, the oven produces succulent moist meat with the famous red spicy seasoning on the outside.
10. Authentic Indian cooking : calls for the use of a number spices, many in small quantities as per the recipe requirement and added at particular intervals throughout the recipe, rather than in one go as a paste or curry powder. This process is difficult and time-consuming art to master in today's ‘time-poor’ lifestyleTandoori describes a style of food unique to the north Indian state of Punjab.
Much of making curry is knowing what spices blend well and experimenting. After you've made a couple of different curries, it's hard to go wrong, Get some good fresh spices and a coffee grinder, dry roast the spices and grind them to make your own curries. There is no substitute for this authentic way of making a typical Indian curry.
Sailaja Gudivada is a herbalist, an avid foodie and an enthusiastic cook. She highlights Indian recipes, ayurvedic cooking and nutritive value of herbs & spices of India from her kitchen at http://indiacuisine.blogspot.com