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Curry From A to Z: 26 Things You Didn't Know About Curry
Photo © Natasha Paterson/Design Pics/Corbis

Curry From A to Z: 26 Things You Didn't Know About Curry

Wether it's wet or dry, curry is one of the most famous - and loved - dishes in the world: learn all about its history, different styles and many more oddities

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Curry can be addictive: every bite makes you want another, and you might find youself wanting something spicier and spicier.

Black cardamom
Black cardamom is the Queen of Spices, thanks to its pungent flavor. A necessary ingredient in every curry, it’s found in all of the most famous Indian dishes: from dal to biryani.

Cinnamon sticks blend well with curry dishes. It’s sweetly sour taste can help mitigate the spiciness of the other spices.

In Indian villages, it’s common to find women selling large bunches coriander, or dhaniya, while seated at street corners. If it’s fresh, the spice gets sprinkled over the plates.

East India Company
The Tamil name for curry is “kari”, which means “sauce”. It became so widespread when the Tamil people came into contact with the East India Company in Chennai, in 1600.

Fish or meat
Delicious with seafood like fish and shrimp, treasured with meat, and perfect even for vegetarian cuisine – curry is a universal delicacy that can be enjoyed with bread or rice.

The European version of curry would be Goulash: a spicy stew made with paprika, garlic, potatoes and either beef or pork.

Hannah Glasse
Hannah Glasse is the author of the first European text, written in 1747, (The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy), where the first curry recipe appeared.

Beyond India, there are many other national variations on curry, like those from Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Africa, Jamaica and the Carribbean.

Jeera (cumin)
Cumin seeds, called Jeera in India, are prepared by sautéing them in hot oil and are used as a base for all the variant of curries. It can also be used for desserts and cheese.

The curry from Kerala, which is in Southern India, is famous for its use of pasta and coconut milk. Liquid and sweetly sour, it makes up the base of Sadya, which is served on banana leaves.

Curry can refer to a dish, a mix of spices, or even a plant: in Indian cuisine, its leaves are added while cooking, or else fried until crisp.

You’ll find the word “masala” (spice) on many Indian menus – its often used just as the word “curry” is on Western menus. Masala dishes tend to be more spicy, however.

Among the most prized curries in the world, there’s the Nepalese version. On the Himalayan mountains, it often flavors goat and yak meat.

Onion shortage
If monsoons ruin the onion crop, prices rise so much that Indians can no longer afford to eat curry, which is largely flavored by onions. This happened last year in India.

Among the many ways rice is prepared with curry, Pulao – a variation of Pilaf – is very popular throughout India and Pakistan.

Queen Elizabeth II
In honor of Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation, a special curry dish – Coronation Chicken – was invented. It’s still very popular in Great Britain.

Not only delicious, curry is also good for you. It’s been used in experimental cancer therapies, and cumin has been used to treat Parkinsons.

Selection of spices
There are 60 different ingredients in a typical curry, which vary according to region, tradition and religion. The most common curries contain coriander, pepper, fennel, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, and chili pepper.

Its literal meaning is “piece” (usually of meat), that is used in the curry dish. Chicken tikka masala is the most popular Indian dish in the West.

In today’s UK, where there are at least 12,000 establishments serving curry, there’s a shortage of cooks – thanks to new immigration laws in India and Pakistan.

Veeraswamy, on London’s Regent Street, is one of the world’s most famous curry restaurants, and has been preparinhg the capital city’s best curry since 1926.

Wet or dry?
For “wet” curries, recipes usually call for yogurt, coconut milk or lentil dhal. In the dry versions, spices become a kind of paste. It’s common to serve a dry curry dish alongside a wet one.

Several studies have showed that curry is a kind of aphrodisiac and may increase one’s sexual desire. 

It’s tumeric that gives curry its intense yellow shade. Also called curcuma, it’s a root that grows in India’s tropical regions. Boiled, it is then dried and made into powder.

A Middle Eastern alternative to curry, Za’atar is a spice mix containing thyme, sesame, salt, oregano and marjoram. Common in Lebanese cuisine, it’s often spread on bread.

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