Do you love Indian food? If you do, then you might often chow down on butter chicken, also known as chicken tikka masala. But you might not know that this dish of two names is a variant of curry, that famous plate of meat and rice and sauce that is like a spicy stew. Even so, curry isn’t only popular in its homeland of India. It has become wildly popular all over the world, but regional variants being produced in other parts of Asia such as China and Thailand, and in the UK and here in America thanks to east Asian expats.
Back in the Day
If there is one thing India and America have in common, it’s that both are now independent countries that were once colonies of the United Kingdom. A British official was getting ready to return home after a long stay in India. He didn’t want to leave behind all the delicious, pungent dishes he had found while on assignment. So he had a servant prepare a concoction of various Indian spices – curry powder – and the name curry stuck.
What is It, Really?
The word curry originates from the Tamil word kahri; both mean “sauce.” In their native lands, you won’t find any curries in the form of a dry powder, even though they can be prepared dry. No, in fact they are actual dishes that is similar in consistency to gravy. If you think every curry has to be spicy for it to count, then you’d be surprised to find out that’s not actually true. The chili pepper is the difference maker – and those aren’t indigenous to Asia – they came from the New World instead.
The Essential Spices
Chilies: How pungent the curry is depends on how many chilies are thrown into it. Generally speaking, the smaller the chili pepper, the hotter it is. You might see red and green curries whenever you visit a Thai restaurant – that’s where the color comes from.
Turmeric: Have you ever wondered why so many curries are yellow? It’s because of this unique spice.
Coriander: Coriander seeds have been prized for centuries and they lend another fantastic flavor to the mix.
Cumin: Cumin also happens to be one of the oldest known spices in the entire world. It has a nutty taste that balances out the heat in many curries.
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