Many recipes calls for curry powder, but what exactly is curry? The word can mean a variety of things depending on the context. Read on to learn more about this South Asian staple, and you'll be talking like a curry pro in no time.
The leaf: There are actual curry trees (really!); they're native to India and Sri Lanka. The fragrant leaves are used to flavor -- wait for it -- curries! Leaves are dried or roasted and then blended into a spice mix, or added to the oil at the beginning of cooking to infuse flavor throughout the dish.
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The spice mix: Lots of recipes use store-bought curry powder, but in southern Asia, most home cooks are not grabbing a premixed box of spices. In this sense, the word "curry" represents a number of different spice concoctions used in that area of the world. In India, each region has its own distinctive curry mix, with home cooks personalizing the flavors even more. Most curry powders include coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and red pepper. Add additional ingredients like cinnamon, cloves, mustard seeds, or garlic if you want to make your own unique blend.
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The dish: Finally, curry can refer to the overall dish, including the sauce, meat, vegetables, and rice. The sauce in a curry dish is usually thick and gravy-like, making it all the better to sop up with naan.
So, are we clear on curry?
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