A Bit About Curry

I've come to realize that there are a lot of misunderstandings about curry and thought I'd take a quick moment to explain a little bit of what I know.

I have found that when people think of Curry, most people usually think of one of two things: SPICY hot or the flavor of curry powder. However, neither is always true.

Think of Curry as we Americans think of the dish Chili - there is a spice chili powder, but not every chili dish recipe contains chili powder, and not every dish of Chili is the same - everyone has their own recipe and no two are exactly alike. Some use tomatoes, some don't, some have kidney beans, others pinto or black, some are spicy, some are sweet ... you get the idea.

So, like the dish Chili, the dish Curry doesn't have to contain the ingredient known as curry powder and there is a HUGE variety of types. First of all, there are many different countries that make their curries - Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal and Pakistan - just to name a few. Each of those countries have their own ways of preparing curries, what they're served with (rice, cous cous, wheat) and what goes into them - which vegetables, meat, etc. Indian curries are different from Thai curries, which are different from African curries, etc. Furthermore, within a country, there can be several different types of curries. For example, in Thailand, there three main types: green, yellow and red, but there are several different types even within that! How do they get so many different kinds? Well, like I said, the dish Curry does not have to contain the spice curry. The dish Curry can contain many different spices - cinnamon, ginger, garlic, nutmeg, cardamom, tamarind, red pepper, bell peppers, etc and can be made with water, goats milk, cows milk, coconut milk, etc. Some are very spicy, some are more sweet, some are bland. Some have vegetables, some have nuts, some have meat ... you get the idea.

Anyway, so now you know there are a bajillon diffierent curries. Even if you think you don't like curry - I'd say give it a shot. Try one of a different color or a type from a different country. You'd be surprised at the vast differences.

So, today my focus will be on my two favorite types of Curry, the ones I grew up on and know the most about. Obviosuly, having a Thai mother, they are both Thai Curries, Masaman and Panang.

Masaman is usually the curry that I give to people who say they don't like curry or to people who have never tried it. Masaman is a mild, sweet yellow curry. The ingredients for the paste include cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom and tamarind. You could buy all the ingredients separately and mix them up to make your own paste, but in the interest of saving time and room in my spice cabinet, I simply buy this paste. Then, to make it, all you have to do is mix the paste with coconut milk. I always use this one. What's nice about this is you can totally adjust it to your tastes - start with the amount of coconut milk and water that the can instructs, then taste a tiny bit of it. Should it be too spicy, just add more coconut milk. And, if you're worried about all the saturated fat in coconut milk, you could even add in cows milk, rice milk, almond, hemp, etc here, but be care not to add too much other milk as it will then throw off the flavor. In the end, you still want to taste all the masaman spices with a sweet, rich creamy finish from the coconut milk. Anyway, once the milk and paste have combined to your liking, and has come to a boil, you add your other ingredients. Traditionally, it is made with beef or chicken, potatoes, onions and peanuts, but you can really throw in whatever you like and have on hand. I usually throw in some carrots just to get in some veggies. Oh, and if you're using chicken, I would go with dark meats - thighs or even whole drumsticks - because the simmering tends to dry out breasts and other white meat. Anyway, once you dump in all that, just let it simmer until all your veggies/meat are done, then serve it over rice (particuarily jasmine rice)! Yum Yum.

Panang is made another sweeter, milder curry (milder than most, but usually spicier than masaman), from the red type. It is flavored with dried chillies, galangal, lemongrass, coriander, cumin, garlic and shallots. I use this one. It's made pretty much the same way as I listed for masaman, except traditionally, it's filled with just meat (usually beef) - no veggies. So, just the meat and curry over rice.

Anyway, I hope that I've helped you understand curry a bit more, and hopefully encouraged you to give a new type a try! :D



Carrie said...

I had not seen this post on your site before Clara!! It's fantastic!! You should do a series of Thai dishes and have a whole thai section!! You are such a wonderful expert on this cooking!! ;-) I think you've converted me to curry!! Especially masaman!!


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