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A Curry Conundrum

I’ve heard a lot of people say ‘I don’t like curry’ which is a gross overstatement of what you probably mean.  Granted, I’m being a little presumptuous, but there are so many types of curry that to have only 1 or 2 and say you don’t like them is not giving curry a fair chance!

Another point of contention for me is that ‘I don’t like curry’ is usually followed by ‘it’s too strong…too overpowering…or too spicy.’  But, it doesn’t have to be!  When selecting a curry dish at a restaurant, tell your server that you prefer milder curries and ask for a recommendation!

A common misconception is that curry powder comes from the curry plant.  While that statement makes logical sense, curry powder is actually a blend of different spices that varies between regions.

Most curry combo’s include ginger, garlic, some type of mustard seed, some type of peppercorn, some type of chilies, cilantro or coriander, cardamom, cumin and cinnamon.


  • Known for: Korma – prepared with onions, braised meat, and yogurt
  • Additional Curry Ingredients: cayenne, turmeric


  • Known for: preparing spicier curries (than traditional Indian curry) that are usually prepared with fish
  • Additional Curry Ingredients: cloves, cumin, turmeric, vegetables in the north and coconut milk in the south


  • Known for: the use of ground black mustard seed and a traditional 5 spice curry combo: fennel, fenugreek, mustard, cumin and kalonji
  • Additional Curry Ingredients: fish, shrimp, a variety of vegetables


  • Known for: mild yellow curry that is a thin sauce rather than a thick, heavy dish
  • Additional Curry Ingredients: hot chili oil, soy sauce, cayenne, cumin


  • Known for: a few distinct curry dishes, which include:
  1. Masala – A blend of spices and herbs mixed with ghee (clarified butter) and cream
  2. Vindaloo – Very spicy curry prepared with black peppercorn and lemon juice
  3. Tandoori – Mild curry made in a clay oven (called a tandoor)
  4. Madras An acidic (from lemon juice and tomatoes) but spicy curry
  • Additional Curry Ingredients: ghee, paneer (fresh cheese), peas, anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, tamarind, turmeric, saffron


  • Known for: Rendang, a curry that simmers water buffalo meat in coconut milk
  • Additional Curry Ingredients: kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, tamarind, turmeric, peanut sauces


  • Known for: Curry Goat, marinated in spices and yogurt and slow cooked
  • Additional Curry Ingredients: anise, nutmeg, fenugreek


  • Known for: Kari – a stew-like combo of curry spices, pickled vegetables and rice
  • Additional Curry Ingredients: lemongrass, galangal (blue ginger), and udon noodles


  • Known for: the development of curried vegetables (tarkaris) and for playing a huge role in incorporating vegetables into other curry dishes
  • Additional Curry Ingredients: cauliflower, spinach, lime and tomatoes

Sri Lankan

  • Known for: curries are so inherent in the cuisine that they have developed a dish called koola’ya, a mixed dish of leftover curry. 
  • Most curries are spicy and contain a curried protein, and side curries made with vegetables or fruit (i.e. apply curry)
  • Additional Curry Ingredients: coconut milk, grated coconut, dried maldive fish, eggs, gourd


  • Known for: Massaman curry (spicy curry with roasted peanuts), Panang curry (mild, creamy beef curry), and categorizing curry by color:

Green – green chilies and basil; generally more mild

Red – red chilies; spicy and hot

Yellow – turmeric and cumin

  • Additional Curry Ingredients: coconut milk, sometimes coconut cream, galangal, lime

What’s the point?  The point is that curry can be made with or without coconut, cream, ghee or nuts.  The protein can be anything you want, it can be thick or thin, spicy or mild, and served with noodles or rice.  Add any vegetables or even some fruits (I.e. apples, plums or raisins are commonly used in curry).  Or don’t!  There are no rules!

I highly encourage you to make your own curry and experiment with what you like and don’t like.  I’m guessing you’ll surprise yourself….and you might just find that you enjoy it. 

Disclaimer: if you don’t enjoy it and feel that you’ve wasted time and money following my suggestions in this post, I assume all emotional responsibility, commend you for your effort, and refuse to pay your grocery bill.

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2 Comments to "A Curry Conundrum"

  1. Justin says:

    I love curry! When I make tuna salad I use curry, garlic & onion powders, not too friendly on the breath but it is delicious.
    I did not know all of that about curry, thanks for the info.

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