Curry Powder: A Blend of Spices

Curry comes from the Tamil word, "kari" meaning stew.

My own chicken curry, simply made with potatoes.
My own chicken curry, simply made with potatoes.

My hands are sweaty, my heart is beating a tad too fast and my mind clears, a slight euphoria has taken place and we’re not talking about eating spicy curry. The mere thought of writing a hub on curry got me all excited, after all, curry is an intimate part of my life.

I ate curry before I learned how to count. The aroma of curry wafted in and out of our house, like a guest that has found its way around the kitchen and is comfortable enough to wander around. Curry was the toast of every auspicious occasion and the go-to dish when my mother ran out of food ideas. It is tastefully divine, yet so disarmingly charming. It’s easy to fall in love with curry.

Curry powder….my favorite of spices and the one thing you will find in my pantry anytime.

What is Curry Powder?

Often curry is associated with a yellowish powder that produces aromatic spicy dishes but ask any curry aficionado and they will tell you that curry is a blend of spices. There are thousands of curry blends and each region or culture has their own special blends. Of course, you can invent your own blend too.

Types of Curry

Curry can be classified under colors: red, yellow or green. The choice of ingredients gives it the color.

They can also go by the names from which they originate: Thai curry, Penang red curry, Singapore curry, Indian curry or the mild Japanese curry.

And contrary to notions, not all curries are spicy. The sweet curry powder has a rich flavor without the heat. The spicy curries (commercially referred to as Madras) have a kick and differing levels of spiciness.

By now, you may be dying to know what is in curry. Yes?

Curry: cumulation of spices, explosion of taste.

courtesy of mllenoelle.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/curry-
courtesy of mllenoelle.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/curry-

Fresh or ground, turmeric has a beautiful bright orange color.

courtesy of nutritionkey.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/turm.
courtesy of nutritionkey.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/turm.

Cardamon pods

courtesy of www.indiabazaar.com.au/images/cardamon.jpg
courtesy of www.indiabazaar.com.au/images/cardamon.jpg

Flowers of the blue ginger (galanga) can be added to increase aroma.

courtesy of www.iantangallery.com/blue%20ginger1%20lores.JPG
courtesy of www.iantangallery.com/blue%20ginger1%20lores.JPG

Basic Ingredients

As noted, there are many blends of curries out there. In India, where curry supposedly originated, the basic formula is called Garam masala. This is commonly used in Northern India and there are about hundreds of masalas, each blended to bring out the flavor of the choice of foods. Southern India has its own mixture, called “sambhar powder.”

Ingredients:

  • Turmeric

Tumeric or yellow ginger as it is affectionately referred to in Asia is bright orange in color. It is the active ingredient, curcumin that gives it the beautiful yellow hue. It imparts more than good looks. We’ll find out later just how curcumin is a health star in its own rights.

  • Coriander Seeds

Coriander seeds naturally come from the Coriander plant, an herb commonly known as cilantro. The twin seeds of the coriander plant are very aromatic, like a cross between citrus and sage. It is best roasted and ground.

No, it’s not a relative of curcumin. It stands on its own, with a distinctive nutty and peppery flavor that is characteristic of Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. A small amount goes a long way.

  • Chilies

The hit of curry powder comes predominantly from chilies used. It is also referred to as red pepper or cayenne. Green chilies are used to produce green curry.

The dried seeds of a member of the pea family, whose name is too long to include here adds another dimension to the curry blend. The health benefits of Fenugreek are many.

  • Cardamon

The pods of Cardamon are often grounded and used to flavor curries, bread and pastries. Use sparingly as the flavor can be overpowering.

The list is by no means exhaustive. Curry can get creative and ingredients can range from fresh ginger to black pepper to the aromatic flowers of galangal. For more interesting variations, check these resources:

The Magic Spice—Garam Masala

Thai Green Curry

Singapore-style Curry Powder

A little Bit of History

Tracing the beginning of curry can get convoluted and different sources give slightly different variations. Without going into details, some of the basic spices used in curry specifically turmeric, cardamom, pepper and mustard can be traced back to India where they were cultivated in the Indus Valley in 3000 BC.  Trade links soon brought these exotic spices to the Sumerians and Egyptians, where the first recorded recipe for meat with spicy sauce appeared on tablets found in Babylon, dated around 1700 BC.

Fast forward many centuries later, we know the British also has a very close claim on the use on curry. This is documented in the book, “History of Food,” by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat.

“At the end of the nineteenth century, however, ready-prepared curry powder could be found for sale in Indian towns. Then, so the tale goes, an Englishman named Sharwood was dining with the Maharaja of Madras, who mentioned to him the shop kept by a famous master maker of curry powder called Vencatachellum. The Englishman visited it and obtained the secret of Madras curry powder, a mixture of saffron, turmeric, cumin, Kerala coriander and a selection of Orissa chilies..."

Health Benefits of Curry

  • According to Gregory Cole, a researcher at the University of California—Los Angeles, the rates of Alzheimer’s disease are four times slower in India than in America. His studies suggest that curry powder may contain a powerful substance to protect the brain from damage that leads to Alzheimer’s.
  • The National Center for Complementary and Alternative medicine cited animal studies where extracts of turmeric (curcumin) was found to protect joints against inflammation and damage. This finding can be potentially useful for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
  • The Multiple Sclerosis Resource Center also cited curcumin’s curative powers in treating multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease in human and animal models.
  • Mayo clinic says the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities of curcumin can be a potent defense against many forms of cancer including colon, prostrate and breast cancers.

Most of these studies are preliminary and therefore more research is necessary to validate claims.

Storage

Curry is available in different forms: powder, paste or canned. In Asia, fresh blends of curry can be obtained from the market and they are specially formulated to work with different category of foods: fish curry, meat curry or vegetables. These paste blends should be used within a few days.

Curry powder should be stored away in dark glass jars away from light as it can discolor turmeric. It also loses its pungency quickly, so make sure the containers are air-tight as well. Use within two months.

Canned and paste sealed in commercial pouches—check expiration dates. Refrigerate once they are opened.

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Comments 51 comments

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Angiwu, I liked this hub very well. The information and pictures were great, plus you made me hungry! Great hub.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

This is a good hub about curry, well informed and now we are talking, I like curries, I like the first image with rice, hmm, you made me hungry now, Maita


sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

I used to order curried chicken in a restaurant and it was the best chicken I've ever had. Sadly, I've never been able to make it as well myself, though I keep trying. So I certainly understand why your mouth was watering just thinking about curry - mine is doing the same right now.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

Pamela, glad u liked the hub. It's nice coming from you, the smart one. Let's go eat some curry at the Indian restaurant.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

Maita, I made the curry seen in the first image. Come over, I'll make you some and not just chicken curry--there's beef rendang, rice bryani and curry-seasoned fish--all for you. Let's pig out. Appreciate your comments.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

sheila, admire your efforts to keep trying to make the perfect curry. I'll be happy to send you some authentic curry powder from Singapore. Just let me know. Also, they sell ready to make curry paste in bottles and packages that are easy to prepare. Thanks for dropping by.


Money Glitch profile image

Money Glitch 6 years ago from Texas

Nice Hub, I really like hot and spicy things, however they irritate my stomach lining for days; therefore, I have to limit my intake. Thanks for sharing such an informative hub on curry. Rating up for you! :)


wandererh profile image

wandererh 6 years ago from Singapore

Curry has never been a favorite of mine, probably because it is usually served with chilli, and I'm not good with spicy foods. No need to insult my Singaporean heritage, as my friends have already done so.

But you make it sound like I'm missing out on something really good. :)


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

Money, I love it when you stopped by. Thanks for rating it up. I know a lot of people have problems with spicy foods. Some curries are really mild. Actually, if you blend your own spices, you can adjust the spice to your liking. Have a great weekend.


tony0724 profile image

tony0724 6 years ago from san diego calif

Curry Chicken is one of my favorites ! :)


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

wandererh, good to see u again. It's been a while. I know a lot of curries served in Singapore are pretty hot but they don't have to be. As I was telling Money, you can blend your own and make it less spicy. Think of all the health benefits of the spices involved. Have a great weekend.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

Glad you like chicken curry. Thanks for dropping by, Tony!


Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 6 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

This looks yummy!


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

Good to see you, Sandy!


Research Analyst profile image

Research Analyst 6 years ago

I use curry when I am cooking chicken it gives it such a lasting great flavor that is not found in many spices.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

Research Analyst, I agree curry gives chicken a wonderful flavor. You can also use it to marinade meat or fish for grilling. Just add salt and curry powder. Thanks for dropping by.


Lady_E profile image

Lady_E 6 years ago from London, UK

Thanks for explaining the different types of curries and also giving info about the ingredients. I enjoyed reading the Hub and will be looking out for Fenugreek seeds as you noted they are very healthy. I am reading this Hub at approx 8.30 in the morning and Anglnwu, I wouldn't mind having that first dish above for Breakfast - Your Chicken Curry. (For one morning, ignore my cornflakes. lol)

Best Wishes.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

Lady E, thanks for gracing my page with your lovely comments. LOL, people in Singapore actually eat curry with a kind of Nunn-like bread (roti prata) for breakfast. My daughter's favorite whenever we visit Singapore.

Best wishes too!


Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago

Great hub on curry. I'm getting hungry and debating a trip to the local Thai restaurant. I'm voting for your hub!


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

Lamme, appreciate your support and I wish I'm joining you at the Thai restaurant. Enjoy!


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

We love eating curry at least once a week. I use my fresh veggies from the garden with a bit of meat and serve it with rice. So delicious - it really does taste healthy.


Money Glitch profile image

Money Glitch 6 years ago from Texas

Way to go! Congrats, Anglnwu on being selected as a "Best Hub" nominee this week. Just had to stop back by and wish you good luck in the contest. :)


D.G. Smith profile image

D.G. Smith 6 years ago

Your article explained a lot, I often find such a big difference in curry dishes, some I have realy loved and then I get disappointed when I have them somewhere else and they taste nothing like I expected. Great Hub


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

elayne, nothing beats a delcious meal with vegetables and just a little meat. I lov the way you made yours. Thanks for commenting.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

Money, my health buddy, thank you so much for your well-wishes. It means so much to me that you take time off just to do that. Actually, I was thinking you will be in the top 10--you consistently write well-researched hubs. I know you will make it, maybe next week? Many hugs.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

D.G. Smith, you're right, no two people make curry the same way unless they use a pre-packaged blend or mix, and even then, they can throw their own spin on it. Also, the curry in a Thai restaurant is going to be different from that in the Indian restaurant and so forth. The trick? Make your own, it's quite simple.

I truly appreciate your comments and thanks for dropping by.


PhoenixV profile image

PhoenixV 6 years ago from USA

Congratulations on the nomination all the dishes look great !

Keep up the hard work!


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

Hi angl, Congrats dear, I did my job already, was late today, was busy for the last two days, good to be back, Maita


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

Phoenix, thanks for your well-wishes.

Maita, go to see you and thanks.


Thai Green Curry 6 years ago

Nice dish, i like the herbs there.

Jane W


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago Author

I love herbs, too. Thanks, Thai Green Curry for dropping by and by the way, nice Thai Green Curry blogs.


Trsmd profile image

Trsmd 4 years ago from India

I thinks that this is the favorite content of most of the Indian dishes.. Lovely and spicy one...


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 4 years ago Author

Trsmd, I love Indian food! Thanks for dropping by to comment.


b h wykes 4 years ago

where can I buy Mrs Vencatachellums mango pickle?


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 4 years ago Author

b h wykes, good question. Did you try online? I checked amazon but they don't carry it. Singapore seems to have listings for it. Thanks for dropping by.


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

Chicken Curry! Yummy! I love this food. This hub is very informative. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

I have been dying to make my own curry--do I have to fry my curry??


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 4 years ago Author

Thelma, thanks for dropping by to comment. Happy Monday!

Audrey, it's best to sautee curry powder as it gives it more intensity and flavor. Usually, you start off by sauteeing some chopped garlic and onion, then add curry powder and sautee until oil separates from the mixture. Add meat and seasonings (salt and a little sugar if desired), then coconut milk and let it simmer until meat is tender. YOu can get fancy and add other ingredients such as lemon grass, galanga and kaffir leaves. Thanks for dropping by to comment and I hope your curry turns out well.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

I love curries--I have heard that it is best to sautee curry powder--Thank you!


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 3 years ago Author

Audrey, good to see you here. Yes, it's best to sautee curry powder with some oil to bring out the burst of favor. Thanks for reading and commenting.


beingwell profile image

beingwell 3 years ago from Bangkok

I love curry-based Thai foods. I'd like to make one tonight. Thanks for this amazing hub anglnwu. Voted up and shared.


Eco-Lhee profile image

Eco-Lhee 3 years ago from Alberta, Canada

I love curry! Great hub!


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 3 years ago Author

beingwell, I know Thai curry is slightly different from the ones I make in Singapore but I know curry in general. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Thanks, EcoLhee.


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

I just love curries! We usually buy Shan dried spices or Mae Ploy curry paste, depending upon what I can find down here in Peru. I especially love cardamom. It's such a perfumy spice and unique to this style of cuisine. Thank you!


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 3 years ago Author

Hi vespawoolf, I buy Shan dried spices too, from a nearby middle-eastern store. I love it. Mae Ploy curry is more Thai and I get that from the Asian store. I love curries too. Thanks for stopping by to comment.


nifwlseirff profile image

nifwlseirff 3 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

I love all sorts of curry, especially those heavy with cardamon and chili! It was much easier to source ingredients when in Australia, but here in Germany, there are fewer Asian grocers, and it's hard to get fresh ingredients. Still, the dried ingredients work well for some curries! Now I'm hungry!


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 3 years ago Author

nifwlseirff, I agree fresh spices are best but dried ones are not too bad either. The good thing we can always order stuff through the internet. Thanks for dropping by to comment.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 3 years ago from East Coast, United States

My mother used to use curry powder in her cooking and I did not like it one bit. But I love Indian food, including curries. Don't know what she did wrong, but my son makes a very tasty dish using curry. Glad to gain a bit of knowledge here!


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 3 years ago Author

Dolores, there are many types of curry powder and some can be stronger than others. Usually, it is used with other ingredients such as garlic, onion, ginger and coconut milk to bring out the flavor. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment.


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 21 months ago

Although we don't much go for curry itself, we certainly try to use all the spices in one dish or another.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 21 months ago Author

hi poetryman6969, for some people curry may be too strong. But the individual spices can be used in a variety of ways. Thanks for commenting.

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