Curry is one of my all-time favorite dishes. I simply cannot resist the exotic spices and silky texture. One of the main reasons I love London much is that curry is so ubiquitous there, one rarely has to walk more than 500 feet in any direction in order to get some curried goodness.
Sadly, a lot of Americans don’t eat curry. I think part of the reason might be because they don’t make it at home. I think they’re somehow under the impression that curries are too complex and too time-consuming to make in their own kitchens. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Curry is dead simple to make, and once you get the hang of it, you can make any curry in around 20 minutes. And in this post, I’ll show you how to do just that.
But first: a word about curry powder. The word “curry” is a rough translation for an Indian word for “sauce”. And just as there are hundreds of sauces in Western cuisine, there are just as many types of curry. In India, curry powder is usually made in the home. Each household might have their own special mix of spices, just as cooks in the Southern U.S. might have their own special blend of barbeque sauce. So there isn’t one single “type” of curry powder. Your local megamart might carry three of four types of curry powder or paste… so which one should you get? Well, there’s no rule about which powder goes with which meat, but as a general rule, I find that the darker the meat you use, the darker the curry powder you should use. So dark brown and deep red curry powders go well with beef or lamb, while yellow curries go better with chicken, shrimp or fish. If you local megamart only sells one type of curry powder, it’s probably “British style” and works best with beef or lamb.
To make a curry, just do the following:
1) If making a beef, lamb, chicken, fish or tofu curry, cut the “meat” into small chunks and set aside.
2) Put 4 tablespoons of butter into a large pot and heat over medium heat.
3) While the butter’s melting, chop 1 large or 2 medium onions. Add them to the butter when it’s completely melted; cook for 2-3 minutes.
4) While the onions are cooking, finely chop 2-3 cloves of garlic and grate an equal amount of fresh ginger. Add the garlic and ginger to the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes.
5) When the onions are translucent, add 2-4 heaping tablespoons of curry powder to the onion, garlic and ginger and mix well. The powder will absorb much of the butter, which is why we started off with so much in step 2. Consider 2 tablespoons of curry powder a minimum, 3 tablespoons standard, a 4 tablespoons good for those who like it spicy. If you’re using curry paste, follow the instructions on the label, but don’t be afraid to add more than what it says. Cook the curry powder with the onions, garlic and ginger for 2-3 minutes, or until the smell of curry fills the room. Be sure to stir the mixture constantly.
6) If you’re doing a beef, lamb, chicken or fish curry, add the meat and cook until browned (around 3-5 minutes).
7) Add some vegetables. If I’m doing a beef curry, I typically dump a 14.5 ounce can of tomatoes in at this point. If I’m making a yellow curry, I dump 1 or 2 cubed potatoes into the mix. Feel free to add any vegetables you’d like, although tomatoes are kind of “standard” for beef curries. Cook 3-4 minutes, or until the vegetables are warm.
8) Add around 1 cup of “thickener”. Your two main options here are coconut milk or plain yogurt. I personally prefer coconut milk, as it adds a silky texture that yogurt lacks. Plus, it’s almost impossible to find 8 ounce containers of plain yogurt these days, so I end up buying a 16 ounce container and throwing half of it away a couple of weeks later. Also, try to buy “light” coconut milk if your local megamart has it; coconut milk contains an insane amount of calories and fat, and the “light” version works just as well in recipes. In any case, stir the coconut milk\yogurt into the mixture and increase the temperature to high. Turn the heat down to low just before the curry begins to boil, and cook for 20 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
9) If making a shrimp curry, add the shrimp during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
10) Serve curry over basmati rice; garish with parsley, cilantro, or your green of choice.