Updated: Feb 15
Foundation + Spices + Body = Curry.
First off, let us share our disclaimer--we are not Indian, we do not have Indian roots, and we are not experts in Indian food. Our basic "Indian" Curry Formula is based on food we've tasted at Indian and Pakistani restaurants here in the United States and in Great Britain. And yes, we know many of the dishes we've experienced are in no way authentic to the many different regional dishes found in India, but they are delicious, and delicious is something we get behind all day long!
Most of the dishes we enjoy at Indian Restaurants can all be made with this formula.
Foundation is simply the base of your dish. It's how you create the first layer of flavor. In French dishes this foundation is a mirepoix or a mix of carrots, onion, and celery. The holy trinity of onion, green bell peppers, and celery form the foundation of most Creole dishes. The foundation in our Indian curry formula is no different. Onions, ginger, and (sometimes) garlic cooked together create the base layer of flavor. What's up with the sometimes garlic? Well, there appears to be a debate about including garlic in the foundation as the flavor can be strong. We tend to leave it out as it can easily burn and turn your dish bitter. Most dishes have enough other flavors that garlic isn't missed. So, finely dice your onion, grate your ginger, and saute over a medium low heat in a neutral flavored oil such as grapeseed oil. You'll want to add salt at this step as most curry powders are salt-free. Cook just until soft--or cook until deep brown and caramelized depending on the flavor you'd like in your dish. Don't know which would be better? Don't worry--you'll learn as you go, and we promise either way will result in a delicious dish.
Next comes your spices. We suggest as a beginner with this formula you pick out a curry powder and use those pre-blended spices. As you gain experience, you'll want to bump up certain flavors and add extra spices, but a basic curry powder will serve you well. At SpiceTopia we offer several blends which can work well depending on the flavors you like. Our Lemon Curry Powder is bright without a lot of heat. Original Curry Powder is the most traditional blend with just barely a kick of heat. And if you are looking for heat, our Muchi and Vindaloo Curry Powders both deliver a big punch of heat! Vindaloo Curry Powder is a tomato based blend and goes well with tomato based curries. You'll want to start with at least a tablespoon of curry powder. It seems like a lot, but the spices are flavoring a whole dish. Also keep in mind, the spices will be acting like flour in a roux and thicken your curry.
To add your spices to your prepared foundation, simply push your onion and ginger mixture to the edges of your pan leaving room in the center for your spices. If you pan appears dry, you'll want to add a dash or two of oil and let it heat up for about a minute. Then add your curry powder, stir into the oil, and cook for another minute or so. This step is important as the spices need to cook--or bloom- in the oil, so they don't taste raw. Blooming your spices allows the natural oils of your spices to awaken and bring out their flavor. After the spices have cooked on their own, stir together the spices and foundation.
Now you are ready for the body of your curry. The body consist of any of the following or a combination of the following:
Think of your favorite Indian dish and what body it has. Tikka Masala has a body of tomato and cream. Saag Paneer has a body of pureed spinach. Kadhi has a body of yogurt. Don't be afraid of mixing and matching. Experimenting with what you have in your pantry is also a great way to discover new combinations.
Your last step is to enjoy your curry as is or to add a protein or veggie of your choice. Our Chicken Curry recipe, we're including below, uses chicken, but is also great with tofu, potatoes, or even chickpeas. The recipe starts with a foundation of onion and ginger sauteed in oil. The spice is 2 tablespoons of Curry Powder. Yogurt and tomato paste thinned out with a bit of broth or water creates the body. Don't be confused that we used the body (the yogurt) as a marinade for the chicken. If we added both seperately, the curry would still be a great curry. We just decided to use the few extra minutes of cooking the foundation as time to impart even extra flavor in our curry by marinating the chicken.
2-4 tablespoon of oil
1 large onion chopped
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoon Curry Powder
Juice of one lemon or lime
1 cup plain yogurt
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs--diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bell pepper (seeded and diced)
1 teaspoon Pacific Flake Salt
1-2 cups broth or water
In a medium sized bowl, combine diced chicken, plain yogurt, juice of lemon or lime, and ½ teaspoon Pacific Blue Flaked Sea Salt. Set aside to marinate as you continue with the recipe.
Heat skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. Heat oil just until a flick of water sizzles in the oil. Add diced onions and grated ginger and ½ teaspoon Pacific Blue Flaked Sea Salt. Turn down heat to low and cook for 4-6 minutes or until onions are translucent and just starting to turn golden.
Push onions to sides of skillet. If skillet appears dry add another tablespoon or two of oil.
Add curry powder to oil in center of skillet. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir into onions.
Add tomato paste to skillet, stir into onions, and let cook for an additional minute.
Add chicken and yogurt mixture to skillet. Add 1 cup broth.
Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add additional broth or water if needed. Curry will thicken as it cooks.
Serve over rice. We love a dollop of Zesteez Chutney on top!
What curry will you create with this formula?