Curry is a mystery to me. It is not one of my native foods, so to speak. I don’t think I ordered a meal containing curry until I was in my 30’s, and I surely never cooked with it. It was simply not in my view. My mother-in-law used to mix bottled curry powder with mayonnaise to make a dip for chilled artichokes. It is a great little trick for an appetizer. But even that positive experience didn’t nudge me out of my comfortable culinary inertia. Truth be told, I have long believed that curry was an actual “thing” or a spice. It comes in a jar marked curry, after all.
But, I’ve been keeping my eyes open lately. Since I met you all, I’ve paid more attention and read more labels. I’ve read hundreds of cookbooks and magazines and I’ve been blinded by the wonder of it all. And while the exposure to cultures and practices and habits and tastes can make the world seem so big, at the same time it shows you that you likely have many of the ingredients for international recipes right at your finger tips.
Curry is not “a” spice. It is a mix of spices. And it is different, wildly different, depending on where you travel. Many regions in Asia have their own mixes called curry that have differing predominant spices and flavors. Indian curry is perhaps the most well known, but there are countless types of “Indian curry.” And, there are styles of curry from Bangladesh, Kashmir, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, China, Japan, and other countries and regions. It seems that at some point British interests labelled all of these spicy, punchy, foods as curry. It is a shortcut for a million different dishes. Curry spice mixes, as found in the grocery store aisle, seem to be a Western notion, also. Which is too bad, really. Because this whole time, had I awakened to this fact, I could have been playing with curries instead of assuming that it was one thing that would always taste the same no matter what. Here is a great article on the British love of curry. Don’t skip the comments, as some of the personal stories are charming.