While I was busy promoting and slightly bragging about our “Spicy Potatoes (Bombay Aaloo)” on an extremely crispy Saturday morning at a Green market.
I wasn’t surprised to get a familiar question “Does it have a curry?”
At first, I used to get very confused and would answer “There is no such thing as curry to be added but it sure does have spices”, but later I learnt that many westerners are oblivious about spices and curry in general…..
Curry doesn’t mean some dish made with an easily available spice called “curry powder”. Curry is a cooking style, distinguished by balanced blend of exotic or aromatic spices (curry) which are roasted and ground into a powder. This flavorful powder is added to the dish at exact right time and allowed to simmer and develop its’ unique flavor in a sauce or gravy. Note curry is always savory and spicy, sometimes it might have burst have of flavors of sweet, spicy, and tangy at the same time creating “a party in your mouth.” The taste, consistency, and even the color of curries can vary depending on spices, veggies, beans or meat. Curry made this way is heart and soul of Indian cuisine.
With roots in ancient India, people have been enjoying curry more than 4000 years. Traditional Indian curry is still prepared daily in almost every Indian kitchen and might not have a fixed set of ingredients. Most common curry blend is created with these spice healing: cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, and turmeric. Health benefits of curry powder gets all the unified benefits of the spices added.
Most common health benefits of the spices are:
- Pain relief and inflammation: Many of the spices are anti-inflammatory and analgesic. They have pain killing properties. Thus preparing your own spice blend and using it regularly in your cooking will be super useful.
- Aids digestion: Almost all the spices fall in this category of helping our body digest the food. Food should never be bland, bland food is hard to digest. The spices not only add flavor and aroma, but it also helps our body by giving the digestive fire much needed significant boost.
- Antioxidant benefits: Spices are rich in anti-oxidants. Antioxidants help our body by neutralizing and removing the free radicals from the bloodstream.
More interesting stuff…
As the spice traders traveled around the world, they not only carried the exotic spices, but they carried the art of Indian curry with them. Of course, it got replicated and evolved with different countries and regions. Thus, the curries became a trademark of many Asian countries, including Malaysia, Thailand, Sri-Lanka, and some part of Caribbean islands.
India ranks second in population. India is a land of versatility, the language, culture and living style varies in every part of India. It’s no miracle that taste preferences differ from one region to another. The spices and spices mixes play a huge part in setting tone of the food. The flavor of the curry changes as you travel, and it depends on the extra spices used in the curry.
North Indian curries are rich and creamy. They are milder and slightly sweeter with nutty flavor.
North Indian spices include • Bay leaf • Black cumin seed • Cardamom, • Cinnamon • Clove • Fennel seed • Fenugreek seed • Nigella seeds • Garlic • Mint • Saffron • Turmeric
South Indian curries can scale from hot to scorching hot and consists coconutty flavor.
South Indian spices include • Asafetida • Black pepper • Coconut and coconut milk • Curry leaf • Fennel seed • Fenugreek seed • Ginger • Mustard seed • Red chili • Tamarind • Turmeric
East Indian curries tend to be sharp. East Indian spices include • Asafetida • Black cumin seed • Cilantro (fresh coriander leaf) • Fenugreek seed • Green chili • Mustard seed • Tamarind • Interesting spice mix called Panch phoron made with (cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds).
Western Indian curries are kind of burst of flavors sweet, spicy, tangy and sweet at the same time. Western Indian spices include • Coriander • dry coconut • Red chili • sesame seeds • cumin seeds •asafetida •cinnamon •cardamom •cloves• stone flower• caraway
Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand are very popular for their signature curries which are very different. Sri-Lankan and Caribbean curries have their own flavor and have their own unique personality. Surprisingly, all regions use same spices, but quantity used and location at which the spice is grown makes a huge difference in flavor. The creation of original spice mix of each region adds a different appeal and uniqueness to the dish created.
We talked all about the uniqueness of spice blends with each region, but do you know there are secret recipe of spice blends for each household as well….
You might think…. Ya .. right… but… believe me …I am not kidding …a spice blend from my parent’s place is different from my in-laws place and thus same curries made with similar recipe gives totally different flavor…
So are you ready to experiment and make your own spice blend…. If yes… shoot a comment and I will be sending you my signature spice blend recipe 😊
Book by, Aggarwal, Bharat B.. Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease, Sterling.