When most people think of curry you may be transported to the place where it is best known, which is India. However, curry like most dishes has it’s roots in more than one place. Curry is a dish that can be found with it’s own flare in several parts of the world. All adapted and descended of a sure fire recipe.
Curry, even in India isn’t all one in the same. The ratio of spices differs from recipe to recipe and dish to dish, as most recipes do all over the world. If a chef is looking for a mixture of curry spice that isn’t quite as spicy they may choose to have more of the less potent spices in their mix, which is usually made from toasting, cooling and then grinding up whole spice to create their curry powder and if they prefer it more spicy they can add more dried chilies, or cayenne pepper to create a more robust and spicy dish. The typical dish is made with chicken but it can certainly be made with different proteins and even here in the United States you can find a vegan friendly adapted recipe where you can substitute a more dense vegetable like and egg plant, squash or potatoes to create a unique and tasty dish. Often times to give a curry a creamy texture you can add in yogurt, cream or even coconut milk which can help to elevate and create another depth to your dish.
Typically the dish is served with rice like basmati, or even wild long grain rice depending on your adapted dish. Although curry dishes come in all different types, spices and such I focused more on dishes that are common in North America. Typically the ones that are adapted to personal preference are generally less spicy than the ones originating from India. The recipe I found is one from an American chef who adapted a chicken curry recipe to be more ideal for her family and since it was for her little ones, she changed the ratio of her spices to still have a nice robust flavor, but less heat. I recreated her recipe and like most chefs changed it a bit to make it more friendly for my own family. The chef whose recipe I used made chicken curry, in a beautiful sauce with green peas, served over white rice. Since I did not have green peas or plain white rice, I omitted the peas from my version of the curry and decided to serve mine over a bed of earthy and delicious quinoa instead. This was my first time preparing or even having curry of any kind so I invited my friend and neighbor to come over and have this dish with me so that she could learn how to prepare it herself and could also give me tips and feedback on the finished dish, since she has had curry dishes before. The recipe for the dish was simple and easy. Once I read the original chefs reason for adapting the recipe and cutting down on the heat and adding a bit more decadent flavor with coconut milk instead of cream or yogurt I decided that it was an ideal dish for us, as we both have smaller children who would be eating the dish.
Curry is a dish where the protein and other ingredients are cooked in a sauce that it is also served in. This allows all the flavors to combine and get to know one another and bring a deeper flavor to the protein itself. Most curries have your typical spices, like cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, chili powder or cayenne powder, ginger and various other spices; and depending on the dish and your preference of heat and flavor depends on the ratio of those spices. We used a recipe with less heat, but not necessarily less flavor. Although we still had hotter spices like chili powder and cayenne pepper we added slightly less of the more potent heat spices and added more cumin and ginger. Still giving us some heat but not overbearing and packed with flavor. First you use a small bit of vegetable oil to cook up your chicken, which you want to cut into quarter inch pieces, then season with the curry powder, salt and pepper, then cook until almost done. Remove the chicken and set aside while you add just a small bit more of your vegetable oil, curry powder and some finely chopped yellow onion and saute it in the same pan. Once the onions start to look opaque add in some minced garlic. Once the onion and garlic have been sauteed and are generously aromatic you add your par-cooked chicken back into your pan to finish cooking, followed by some low sodium chicken stock, a dash of sugar, cornstarch, cilantro and coconut milk. Once all your ingredients are in your pan bring them up to a low simmer and allow the sauce to thicken while all your other ingredients finish mingling and cooking. Once your curry is done it is ready to be served over some pre-prepared rice, or in my case some delicious and beautiful quinoa. Although curry in any case is typically a breeze to prepare, the North American takes on the dish are usually the ‘short order’ or faster versions of more traditional recipes because we like convenience as much as we like flavor and in this case where you can have both, it’s a win-win. With all of the beautiful and fragrant spices that go into your curry that help to infuse your chicken, or protein of choice, with lots of flavor also creates an aromatic and delightful sauce or ‘gravy’ that can be served with it as a wonderful addition to the dish, but of course can be served without. So no matter what your take or favorite version of curry may be, the levels of flavor and characteristics of the dish are usually close to the same and the versatility of the recipe allows you to give it your own signature take, from using whole heavy cream or coconut milk for less calories and another level of flavor and aroma to much more spices for a potent kick of heat you can find a perfect curry for you no matter where you are.
That is and always will be one of the best aspects of learning culinary cuisines and recipes, you can travel anywhere in the world through food, right in your own home.
1.5 lbs. chicken breast (1/4 inch strips)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 1/2 tsp. curry powder
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 med. yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. ground ginger
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup chopped cilantro