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Curry across the World’s Dining Tables

CurryCurry is a mixture of spices commonly used in South Asian cuisine.  In its simplest form it contains coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili, and fenugreek. It is not unusual for ginger, garlic, cinnamon, mustard seed, fennel, cardamom, black pepper, and other spices to be included in curry. Each country and each cuisine that uses this spice add its own touch to this mixture of spices.

The Oldest Spice

Records show that this spice has been used as far back as 2500 BC, notably in the Indus Valley. Some artifacts indicate that a basic form of this spice was commonly used in South Asia about 4000 years before the Europeans were on the scene.

In BBC- Food Section’s Curry: Where did it come from?, Anna-Louise Taylor shares her thoughts about this discovery: “It shows that curry may be the oldest continuously prepared cuisine known in human history, although with modern ingredients like chili and black pepper added centuries later, the exact definition of curry is still under scrutiny.”

Curry has become a well-loved spice not only in Asian cuisine but in European cooking as well. In South Asia, notably in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, it is a staple spice and curry dishes cover a whole spectrum of other ingredients. There is vegetarian curry, curry cooked in halal tradition, and there is curry with a wide variety of meats.

Indian Curry

In Flavor 574’s Curious about Curry: What’s the difference between Indian and Thai curry?,  Kaeli Evans shares some surprising details about this spice.”The yellow-orange powder you see in stores is commercially prepared with a mix of spices like coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek and chili peppers. It gets its yellow color from the turmeric. Many of these same ingredients closely reflect garam masala, a spice mix used in north India.”

Sri Lanka

The curry in Sri Lanka is particularly spicy.  It is customarily served with rice, meat, vegetables and even fruit. Usually, curry in this part of the world is prepared with coconut milk and sometimes with grated coconut as well.

Thai Curry

Thai curries are vastly different from South Asian and Indian curry. As Evans says, “While Indian dishes tend to use more dry spices, Thai cuisine often uses curry-paste and fresh herbs instead. Thai curries are cooked for a shorter period of time and typically include vegetables, chicken, seafood accented with fresh herbs like mint, cilantro and basil. They also tend to be soupier, thanks to the addition of coconut milk or water…

“Unlike Indian curries, in which where the spice lingers on the palate, Thai curries deliver the heat upfront because of those fresh ingredients. Thai curry paste usually is made of fresh chilies, lemon grass, galangal (ginger), garlic, shallot, kefir lime leaves, cilantro roots and shrimp paste, with spices like cumin seeds, coriander seeds and turmeric…”

Japan

In Food Service Warehouse’ Curries from the World: Differences by Country, Eleanor Frisch writes, “Japenese curry, known as “kari” in Japan, is a very popular dish. The spice in Japan came not from its south Asian neighbors, but rather from British cuisine. Curry-rice is the most popular form, and consists of a curried stew, thickened with roux and served over rice. The flavors of this spice have also influenced the development of Japanese country cuisine; for example, udon noodles are often served in a curry-flavored broth. Kari-pan – or deep-fried-curry doughnut – is another Japanese dish that utilizes curry flavors. In recent years, different regions of Japan have popularized their own specialty curries, including fruit curry.

Malaysia

About Malaysian spice, Frisch adds, Curry in Malaysia is very diverse, and different localities eat different kinds of curries. In general, curries in Malaysia rely heavily on turmeric, chilies and garlic. They usually have a creamy coconut-milk base and are thicker than curries in most other regions. Rendang is a popular tomato-based Malaysian curry, usually including beef, that is often prepared during festivals or celebratory events and served with rice cakes or lemang – rice barbecued in tubes of bamboo…”

As the world becomes more closely connected because of travel and technology, there is no doubt that an increasing number of people will learn to enjoy curry, a spice that epitomizes everything that is unique, exotic, and yet universally delicious in cuisines all over the world.

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