Curry (/ˈkʌri/, plural curries) is a dish whose origins are in South and Southeast Asian cuisines. The common feature is the incorporation of complex combinations of spices or herbs, usually including fresh or dried hot chillies. Some limit the use of the term curry to dishes prepared in a sauce, but curries may be "wet" or "dry". A curry dish may be spiced with leaves from the curry tree, but many curries do not have this ingredient.
In original traditional cuisines, the precise selection of spices for each dish is a matter of national or regional cultural tradition, religious practice, and, to some extent, family preference. Such dishes are called by specific names that refer to their ingredients, spicing, and cooking methods.
Traditionally, spices are used both whole and ground; cooked or raw; and they may be added at different times during the cooking process to produce different results.
Curry powder, a commercially prepared mixture of spices, is largely a Western notion, dating to the 18th century. Such mixtures are commonly thought to have first been prepared by Indian merchants for sale to members of the British Colonial government and army returning to Britain.
Dishes called "curry" may contain meat, poultry, fish, or shellfish, either alone or in combination with vegetables. Many are instead entirely vegetarian, especially among those who hold ethical or religious proscriptions against eating meat or seafood.
Curries may be either "wet" or "dry." Wet curries contain significant amounts of sauce or gravy based on yoghurt, coconut milk, legume purée (dal), or stock. Dry curries are cooked with very little liquid which is allowed to evaporate, leaving the other ingredients coated with the spice mixture.
The main spices found in most South Asian curry powders are turmeric, coriander, and cumin; a wide range of additional spices may be included depending on the geographic region and the foods being included (white/red meat, fish, lentils, rice and vegetables).
By Dean Hanley
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