On many an occasion I have gotten into subtle arguments with people on the ever-contentious topic of curry. “Curry is a type of soup!” will fly out of someone’s mouth, or “Curry is a plant!”, to which I reply, “Guys, curry is actually an umbrella term.” The truth is, I just love the term umbrella term, but in reality, I am just as ignorant as the people I argue with. But alas, the confusion is over. I have finally done the research and am ready to share what I learned with you. Please, for the goodness of humanity, share this post with everyone you know, so that ignorant arguments about curry will be no longer.
What I learned is that ‘curry’ is something to be often found in either Indian or Thai kitchens, as well as in other Asian countries’, and there is no such thing as a curry plant. And contrary to ignorant Western beliefs, not all Indian dishes contain this ingredient.
Curry Powder: This is a yellow seasoning of Indian origin that is available at most US supermarkets. It’s a spice blend that varies by brand, but most include: coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and paprika. A pre-packaged mix is a strictly Western phenomenon because in India, the blend is prepared right before it is added to a dish.
Curry Paste: Unlike the dry seasoning described above, a curry paste is usually a blend of: fresh chilis, lemongrass, galangal (a plant of the ginger family), garlic, shallots, kaffir limes, cilantro root and shrimp paste (kapee), that is most popular in Southeast Asian kitchens. It is most often red, green or orange. (source: Temple of Thai) Canned/jarred curry paste can be purchased in most Asian markets. Also unlike the powder, this stuff is very spicy.
Curry as a dish: ‘Curry’ is something you are likely to see on Asian restaurants’ menus. A Thai curry dish, for instance, can be characterized as a soup, and it is usually made with a coconut milk base, along with meat, seafood and/or vegetables, and it is seasoned with a curry paste. An Indian-style curry dish is likely to be thicker, more stew-like, than its Thai counterpart. It is also seasoned differently and often features yogurt as the base for its sauce.
“Curry is too spicy for me…”: Most people of the Western world are unaccustomed to eating spicy foods, which is okay, as most Western countries have mild climates that aid in the preservation of food. South Asian countries are not so lucky. Because their climate is much hotter and muggier, like in Thailand, their food is prone to rotting faster than ours. Ingredients like chili peppers help fight off rot, therefore keeping food fresh longer. Of course most homes today have refrigerators that do a great job of preserving food, but refrigerators are a relatively new development in the history of Asian cuisine.
Well, I hope the ignorant readers out there find this post helpful. I sure do. And please, if you are more educated on this subject than me, share whatever information I missed in the comments section below. Thanks!