The term Curry as of what it presently refers to is any spiced, gravy-based dishes (usually side dishes) cooked in Asian styles. Generically any wet side dish made out of vegetables or meat is historically referred to as a ‘Curry’ and is assumed that it is supposed to be cooked with ‘Curry Powder’.
The truth is not all curries are made of ‘curry powders’ and not all South Asian recipes are curries. The roots of curry definitely come from India. The concept of curry was later brought to the West by British Colonialists in India from the 18th century.
As Wiki says, “The term curry may derive from the Tamil word kari (in Tamil means sauce). It is understood that the British mistook the term, as the Tamil people call Kari Columbu which means meat gravy as being curry, derived from the usage of “Kari” in the Tamil language and other South Indian Dravidian languages, to connote some of the stew/gravy-like dishes eaten with rice.”
Another assumption is that the word ‘curry’ is derived from “Kadhi” which derives from the term “Kadhna” meaning “to simmer” in a KaRai denoting the cooking vessel used in Indian kitchens.(KaRai is a wok like deep circular utensil).
The commonly known ‘Indian Curry Powder’ is not any particular spice mix in a particular proportion, because ‘Curry’ is not just a single dish. (the ready-made products which just sells as ‘curry powder’ are actually different versions of Garam Masala ). Curries differ in their taste and content, not just between countries but also within countries. For example, the curries of India are different than those of South East Asia. And even though the word roots from India, every state in India takes pride in their own cuisine. It is as diverse as the culture and languages. The spices used are different in different dishes and also vary from region to region in India. Besides the spices, ginger, garlic, various kinds of spiced powders, tomato, yogurt, saffron, cream and dry fruits and nuts are used to create curries. Here are the few popular kinds of Indian Curries.
It is a culinary art to play with the permutation and combination of spices. One single ingredient can be prepared in several ways just by changing the spices and you have a “curry” with completely new flavors – exotic & delicious.
The ‘Curry’ dishes are given specific names that indicate what they are made out of. Butter Chicken, Malai Kofta, Chicken Curry are to name a popular few.”Mutter Panner” is Peas with Homemade cheese, ( “Mutter” in Hindi is “peas” and “paneer” is homemade cheese). Or “Bhindi Masala” is Okra in Spices (“Bhindi” ( “Okra” and “Masala” is a combination of different Spices).
The history of spices dates back thousands of years, and are not only known for their satisfying the craving palates but also providing health and medicinal benefits. For example, Turmeric is added to almost all Indian dishes. This is what gives the yellow color so specific to a curry. However the purpose of Turmeric is not just to add color to food. It is also known to be an antiseptic. Fennel and Carom seeds have digestive properties. So the spices and the balance of amounts used to make a dish (or a curry as it is generally known) is all for general well being besides satisfying the taste buds.
Now as the mystery of a ‘Curry’ is demystified, I hope you will explore & enjoy the various blends of spices in various recipes or ‘Curries’ in eCurry!!