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Why you should avoid using curry powder for making an authentic Indian curry

June 18, 2021

We are not against curry powder and if you like curry powder or if that is the only option available in your country/area then by all means use it. As long as you are cooking your own food we are happy.

But here at pestle and pods we not only want to simplify home cooking but also teach the history of curry and curry making so you know how to make an awesome curry every time the right way.

A bit of History

There are a lot of stories about the origin of the word 'curry' and this is one such that we were told growing up in Tamil Nadu

The word 'Curry' was adopted from the Tamil word ' கறி orkari' which literally means sauce made predominantly with meat and/or vegetables. And also the meat itself is called as Kari. Eg. Chicken meat is called Koli  Kari(Chicken meat), and Aattu Kari(Goat meat) ,beef  Maattu Kari(cow meat) and so on. In India  there is no concept of curry powder no one would know as it doesn't exist other than curry masala(which we discuss more below). When the French and Britishers colonized India their south Indian headquarters was the Madras Presidency(today it is called Chennai) which is the capital city of state Tamil Nadu. And inspired by the varieties of curry that they wanted to take these recipes to their home countries.

But they came up with their own version of a spice blend called 'curry powder' that gave the close enough taste to an actual curry and was milder and thus born the 'Madras Curry Powder' in the west. And similarly Vadouvan curry powder and various other curry powders were born inspired from different states of India.  So what is in this curry powder? for that we need to know what is in the curry.

Curry gets its flavors from both wet ingredients such as onion, ginger and garlic, meat and vegetable and the dry spice masalas which usually includes Garam masala, Coriander powder, Cumin, Mustard, Red Chili powder and so on. But in the process these are added at two different stages. So usually you start the curry with oil, bit of garam spices, onions, ginger and garlic which forms the base of a curry. And then the blend of different spices are roasted and added which is known as the curry masala.

Let's break it down further

Garam masala(warm potent spices) - A mix of  strong spices such as cardamom, cloves, Pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaf, etc. But you cannot make a curry with just Garam masala as it would be way too potent. So you need to add more milder spices to balance it out which is the curry masala. Read below.

Curry Masala(roasted warm+mild+hot spices) - Roasted Garam Masala + more milder spice blends such as Coriander Powder, Cumin, Fennel, Turmeric  +  Mustard(depending on the type of curry)+ hot spices Red Chilli which makes the soul for any Indian curry. Every state in Indian does this masala a little differently that is why north Indian and south Indian dishes vary in difference so much. And usually the curry masala is roasted and ground to enhance the flavor.

However the French and British made this curry powder that included both the dried version of the wet items and the dried spices to mimic the taste of the curry.

Curry Powder - Usually are a blend of Onion powder + Ginger Powder + Garlic powder + Turmeric + Non roasted spices

So if you are adding fresh onion + ginger + garlic in your curry separately(which you should be) then you should not be adding a powder that already has these ingredients as they are going to drastically change the authenticity of a good curry. 

It is like drinking coffee made with beans that are stale and non roasted. It is not the same.

So rule of thumb - Add fresh Onion -> Ginger -> Garlic-> Tomato and then Curry Masala -> Protien or veggies of your choice

Basically if you want to get the authentic taste of a good curry 'keep the wet things wet and dry things dry.'

You can grind your own masala or buy The One Curry Masala blend which has all these necessary ingredients to make an awesome curry. But if you don't have these handy then by all means use what ever you want to use to make curry. End of the day if you are making your own food and staying healthy and happy that is all that matters.

Also growing up in Madras that brought this wonderful spice blend to the world we take immense pride and care in developing our recipe so that even if you go to Madras and have a curry dish there you won't notice the difference 



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