The search for perfect curry powder began when we caught the whiff of mouth-watering parotta salna (flaky flat breads with curry) emanating from the “parotta shop” on our way back home from school in the evenings. After several trials of various curry powders available in the local market, my brother found Karunanidhi curry masala closely racing behind the one used in parotta shops. In those days curry powders were sold in small packs of 5 or 10 grams and it was recommended to add a pinch of curry powder even for the large quantity of curries. Nowadays curry powders are available in 50 or 100 grams and it recommends to use 2 teaspoonfuls (10 grams) of curry powder.
Nevertheless I prefer to use less curry powder particularly during summer as it is exuded as body odour through the sweats & breaths. So we can use home-made curry powder to enjoy the desired aroma by adding just a pinch of curry powder.
Curry powder is the quintessential ingredient for preparing delicious aromatic curries and every family has a unique liking towards a particular set of spices. Basically I am not inclined to add too many spices in my curry powder as used in store-bought curry powder.
The star ingredient in my curry powder is stone flower (kal paasi) that we hardly find in most of the curry powders available in the market today. Stone flowers are actually lichens on rocks and trees cultivated mostly in Tamilnadu. It is used in Chettinad cuisine and a few other Indian cuisines. Since it adds black color to the curry powder, it is not widely used by the manufacturers nowadays. It imparts intense flavor when roasted in oil, so we need to fry this curry powder in oil for few seconds allowing it to release the aroma to the fullest.
Since stone flowers are used for its intense yet pleasant aroma, it is not required for me to use too many spices. But I have added pepper liberally into this curry powder so that we can reduce the use of red chillies mainly for children & others who can not withstand the heat of red chillies. Curry powder may also be used in biryani (rice dishes), soups, stir fried vegetables and sundal (legumes salad).
Now the recipe for Chettinad style flavorful curry powder:
Yields: 1/2 cup
|Black pepper (milagu)||1/4 cup|
|Coriander seeds (dhania)||1/4 cup|
|Fennel seeds (sombu)||2 tbsp|
|Cumin seeds (jeera)||2 tsp|
|Stone flower (kal paasi)||5|
Curry powder making:
- Heat a heavy bottom pan in medium low flame.
- Roast all the ingredients until we could smell the aroma of all spices.
- Remove from heat.
- Transfer to a plate to cool them down.
- Grind into a fine powder.
- Store in an air tight glass bottle.
The word, curry, is originated from the Tamil word kari. In Tamil cuisine we use tamarind pulp as the base for most of the curries in which vegetables (or meat products) are cooked along with curry powder. Basically there are 3 major components in curries:
- Curry sauce (gravy)
- Dry curry powder and/or wet curry paste
- Vegetables, lentils, legumes, eggs, or meat products
Curry sauce is usually prepared using cooked & pureed ingredients like onion, tomato, spinach or other vegetables that add volume to curries and also determine the color of curries.
Spice powder or curry paste is used to enhance the flavor & aroma of curries. The commonly used spice powders are chilli powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, curry powder (garam masala). Curry paste is usually prepared using ginger, garlic, green chillies, coriander leaves, mint leaves, etc. Except curry powder all other spice powders & curry pastes are added in the beginning, whereas curry powder is usually added just before the final boil.
Vegetables, lentils, legumes, eggs, or meat products may be steamed, boiled, roasted, fried, stuffed or made into dumplings before adding into curry sauce.
Besides we can add fresh cream, coconut milk, cashew paste, coconut paste, or yogurt (curd) as thickening agents to make the curry rich & creamy. Adding butter, ghee, or vegetable oils like coconut oil, sesame oil, olive oil, etc.also enhances the flavor of curries.
Finally we can garnish curries with finely chopped coriander leaves, fresh cream, or other herbs & spices tempered in oil/ghee.
We need to use appropriate ingredients to achieve the desired color and flavor of curries. I hope the table below may be useful to select the ingredients for curries:
|Color of the curries||Curry sauce ingredients|
|White||White pepper + coconut milk (or cashew paste)|
|Light green||Green chillies + coriander leaves + coconut milk (or cashew paste)|
|Dark green||Green chillies + spinach|
|Yellow||Red chillies + carrot + coconut milk (or cashew paste)|
|Orange||Red chillies + carrot + tomato puree|
|Red||Red chillies + tomato puree|
|Light brown||Red chillies + tamarind pulp|
|Dark brown||Black pepper + caramelized onion + mint leaves|