- This article is about the dish. For the curry tree and its leaves, see the foot of this page. You might also be interested in the logician Haskell Curry and the procedure of currying named for him.
A curry is any of a great variety of distinctively spiced dishes, best-known in Indian and Thai cuisine, but found in many other countries.
Curries around the world
The term curry derives from kari, a Tamil word meaning sauce and referring to various kinds of dishes common in South India made with vegetables or meat and usually eaten with rice. The term is used more broadly, especially in the Western Hemisphere, to refer to almost any spiced, sauce-based dishes cooked in various south and southeast Asian styles, or to anything that one might eat in an Indian restaurant or curry house. This imprecise umbrella-term is largely an artifact of the British raj. Well-known Indian dishes include Korma, Madras, Vindaloo, Butter Chicken, and Rogan Josh. Curry used in this sense is often accompanied by breads like naan, roti, or popadums.
In Tamil cuisine, from which the word originated, curry refers to any dry preparation involving meat or vegetables shallow-fried with dry spices. Used as a word in itself, it usually means chicken curry or mutton curry; the dishes made with vegetables are usually referred to with the vegetable as prefix - e.g. Potato curry, Beans curry. Curry is usually eaten with Rice and Sambar or Rasam.
In other varieties of Indian cuisine, curry is a sauce - sometimes considered a soup - made by stirring yoghurt into a roux of ghee (a type of clarified butter) and besan (chick pea flour). The spices added vary, but usually include turmeric and black mustard seed.
In British cuisine, the word curry denotes a sauce-based dish flavored with curry powder. A dry preparation of meat or vegetables (especially potatoes) may be served curried, meaning they have been coated with a curry powder preparation then roasted, shallow-fried, or grilled (broiled) to a dark brownish colour. Additionally curry sauce may be served warm as a condiment to other dishes such as chips.
The vast majority of British "Indian" restaurants are in fact Bangladeshi, although the menu will nearly always be influenced by the wider Indian subcontinent (and frequently other neighbouring cuisines such as Persian and Nepalese). They have developed the Curry to such a level that it has become an integral part of British cuisine, meaning some Indian food is actually exported from the United Kingdom to India. (There was even an instance of an Englishman asking for a local curry to be sent to Australia and while resident in London, a craving made actor Tom Cruise pay hundreds of pounds for his favourite dish to be flown and delivered to him in Rome). The dominance of Bangladeshi "Indian" restaurants has led to many others zealously promoting "authenticity" in particular cuisine from either India or a specific area of that country.
British curries are generally arranged by strengths with the most commonly found dishes and menu descriptions being the following:
- Korma (mild)
- variant dishes (medium)
- Madras (fairly hot)
- Vindaloo (very hot)
- Phaal (very very hot)
Other dishes may be featured with varying strengths, with those of northern Indian Subcontinent origin or influence, such as Butter-Chicken tending to be mild, and recipies from the south of India being among the hotter examples.
Britain is in fact the home of two widely familiar "Indian" dishes, Chicken Tikka Massala and Balti (which is a curry designed to be eaten with a large naan bread).
In the late 1990s, chicken tikka masala was commonly referred to as the "British national dish", being apparently the single commonest dish in the country, available (albeit in frozen, microwavable form) on intercity rail trains, and even used as a pizza topping.
Curries are not confined to India and the United Kingdom, British style curry restaurants are common and increasingly popular in Australia and New Zealand. Other countries have their own varieties of curry, well known examples include:
- Thailand: green, red and yellow curries
- Malaysia & Indonesia: rendangs
- South Africa: Cape malay curries
- Sri Lanka: Rice and curry meals
Other countries which have their own varieties of curry include: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Burma, Japan, Pakistan, and Singapore; and curry powder is used as an incidental ingredient in other cuisines, including for example a "curry sauce" (sauce au curry, sometimes even au cari) variation of the classic French béchamel.
A number of studies have claimed that the reaction of pain receptors to the hotter ingredients in curries, even a Korma, leads to the body's release of endorphins and combined with the complex sensorary reaction to the variety of spices and flavours, a natural high is achieved that causes subsequent cravings, often followed by addiction and a desire to move on to hotter curries. Defining this as "an addiction" is contested by other researchers.  (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/989256.stm)
Fresh Herbs and Spices
- coriander (cilantro) leaves
- curry leaves
- bay leaves
- kaffir lime leaves
- green chillies
Curry powder aka Masala Powder is a spice mixture of widely varying composition developed by the British during their colonial rule of India as a means of approximating the taste of Indian cuisine at home. Masala refers to spices, and this is the name given to the thick pasty liquid sauce of combined spices and ghee (clarified butter), butter, palm oil or coconut milk.
Curry leaves are the young leaves of the curry tree (Chalcas koenigii), a member of the Rutaceae family that grows wild and in gardens all over India. They must be used fresh, as they lose their delicate flavor when dried.
- Spicy World Spice List (http://www.spicyworld.net/spices.html) - A list of spices
- South Indian shrimp curry recipe (with photo) (http://www.mediterrasian.com/delicious_recipes_curry.htm)