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Curries from Around the World: Differences by Country

Curries from Around the World: Differences by Country

There is no easy way to define “curry.” Usually, any dish that contains curry powder or curry paste is considered curry, and the curry spices that make up the pastes and powders vary from region to region. A curry blend usually, but not always, includes turmeric, coriander, cumin and hot chili peppers, but it can include a variety of other spices as well, including, but not limited to, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, cardamom, tamarind and fenugreek.


Afghanistan
Afghan curries are eaten around the world and have influenced dishes in South Asia, particularly in Pakistan. One of the most popular curry-like dishes in Afghanistan is the Afghan korma. It is usually based on onions and a meat braised in a yogurt sauce.

 Afghan Curry Spices Common Afghan Curry Ingredients 
 Black pepper, cardamom, cayenne pepper, cilantro, coriander, garlic, ginger, turmeric  Beef, chicken, lamb, lentils, lotus root, onions, plums, raisins, spinach, turnips, veal, yogurt


Bangladesh

Bangladesh curries are renowned for being spicier than their traditional Indian counterparts. They differ from region to region, often containing salt-water fish and coconut milk in the south, and fresh-water fish and extra spices and vegetables in the north. Beef curry is a popular dish. Other dishes in Bangladesh often come in the form of dals, a lentil stew that contains a variety of legumes and the basic spices found in curry.

 Bangladeshi Curry Spices Bangladeshi Curry Spices 
 Cardamom, chilies, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, garlic, turmeric.  Beans, beef, coconut milk, fish, lentils, onions, potatoes chicken, lamb, lentils, lotus root, onions, plums, raisins, spinach, turnips, veal, yogurt


Bengal

Bengali cuisine is found in Bengal, a region that straddles both Indian and Bangladesh. It is diverse and contains influences from all over the world, including European, Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern influences. Most Bengali curries contain fish or shrimp. A huge variety of vegetables are used. The spice mix is diverse, the most popular being a five-spice combination known as panch puran (fenugreek, mustard, fennel, cumin, kalonji). One of the most unique aspects of Bangali fish curry is the presence of ground black mustard seeds.

 Bangali Curry Spices Common Bangali Curry Ingredients 
 Black mustard seed, cilantro, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, kalonji (a.k.a. black caraway or fennel flower), red chilies  Eggplant, fish, gourds, greens, lemon, okra, onion, plantains, potato, pumpkin, shrimp


China

As with most regions of Central and Eastern Asia, China has traded recipes and spices with South Asian countries for centuries. Chinese curries are largely influenced by Malaysian cuisine. Usually they are made from a thin, watery, yellow curry sauce. As with other Chinese dishes, Chinese curry is often eaten with condiments like hot chili oil or soy sauce.

 Chinese Curry Spices Common Chinese Curry Ingredients 
 Cardamom, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, red chilies, turmeric, yellow mustard seed, white pepper  Beef, bell peppers, chicken, fish, mutton, onions, potatoes


Massaman curry, a Thai curry inspired by Indian curries and ingredients
India
While curries have been developed throughout the world and are influenced by a variety of cultures, India is often considered the true birthplace of the curry spice blend. Curry dishes in India are as diverse as pasta dishes in Italy. Curries are eaten in every region of India, and each region has at least one distinctive curry dish.  » Indian Curries By Region

Some of the most popular types of authentic Indian curry include the following:

  • Masala - A blend of spices and herbs mixed with ghee and cream to create a rich sauce.
  • Vindaloo - An especially fiery curry containing black peppercorn and lemon juice.
  • Tandoori - A milder curry that is made in a special clay oven known as a tandoor or tandoori oven.
  • MadrasA spicy curry made sour with the acids in lemon juice and tomatoes.

 Indian Curry Spices   Common Indian Curry Ingredients 
 Anise, asafetida, bay leaves, cardamom, cassia (a cinnamon-like bark), cinnamon, chilies, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry leaf, fennel seeds, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, nutmeg, tamarind, turmeric, saffron  Ghee, onions, paneer (a fresh Indian cheese), peas, potatoes, lemon, tomatoes


Indonesia

In Indonesia, curry dishes, known as “kari” or “gulai”, differ from region to region. They can contain a wide variety of seafoods or meats, the most unique of which are water buffalo or goat meats. Rendang is a common curry found there, and the authentic version of Indonesian rendang uses water buffalo meat slowly simmered in coconut milk. Another popular curry there, “opor ayam”, is made by simmering chicken in coconut milk or cream, lime juice and lemongrass. There are also a variety of curries that utilize peanut sauces.

 Indonesian Curry Spices   Common Indonesian Curry Ingredients 
 Bay leaves, chili peppers, coriander, cumin, curry leaves, garlic, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, tamarind, turmeric, white pepper  Water buffalo, fish, chicken, goat, coconut meat, coconut milk, lime, peanuts, pineapple, shallots, soy sauce


Japan
Japenese curry, known as “kari” in Japan, is a very popular dish. Curry in Japan came not from its south Asian neighbors, but rather from British cuisine. Curry rice is the most popular form, and consists of a curried stew, thickened with roux and served over rice. The flavors of curry have also influenced the development of Japanese country cuisine; for example, udon noodles are often served in a curry-flavored broth. Kari-pan – or deep-fried curry doughnut – is another Japanese dish that utilizes curry flavors. In recent years, different regions of Japan have popularized their own specialty curries, including fruit curry.

 Japanese Curry Spices   Common Japanese Curry Ingredients
 Cardamom, coriander, cumin, galangal (a.k.a blue ginger), garlic, ginger, green chilies, lemongrass, red chilies, turmeric  Apples, beef, carrots, chicken, coconut milk, fish, melons, onions, oysters, pear, pork, potatoes, scallops, udon noodles


Malaysia

Curry in Malaysia is very diverse, and different localities eat different kinds of curries. In general, curries in Malaysia rely heavily on turmeric, chilies and garlic. They usually have a creamy coconut-milk base and are thicker than curries in most other regions. Rendang is a popular tomato-based Malaysian curry, usually including beef, that is often prepared during festivals or celebratory events and served with rice cakes or lemang – rice barbecued in tubes of bamboo.

 Malaysian Curry Spices   Common Malaysian Curry Ingredients 
 Chilies, galangal (a.k.a blue ginger), garlic, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, shrimp paste, tamarind, turmeric  Beef, cassava, chicken, coconut milk, cuttlefish, eggplant, eggs, fish, jackfruit, lamb, onions, shrimp, water buffalo


Nepal
Curries in Nepal are similar to those of northeast India. The most common curry dish is Nepalese dal, composed of lentils, tomatoes and onions. Also popular are curried vegetables, known as tarkaris. Nepal is famous for contributing to the development of vegetable curries, including aloo gobi tarkari (cauliflower and potato curry) and saag tarkari (leafy green curry). Another popular Nepalese dish is fermented vegetable curry, known as gundruk.

 Nepalese Curry Spices Common Nepalese Curry Ingredients 
 Black pepper, cilantro, cumin, garlic, ginger, yellow mustard seed, red chilies, turmeric  Cauliflower, potato, spinach, mustard greens, lentils, lime, tomatoes, onions


Pakistan
While Pakistani curries do not differ greatly from Indian curries, they are as diverse as their Indian counterparts. There are several curries that are wholly unique to the Sindhi region of Pakistan and India, including bhugal bheeha (lotus root curry) and curry chawal (a tomato curry). In the West, the most widely known Pakistani dish is korma, a curry where the ingredients are braised with cream, yogurt or broth. Another popular Pakastani dish is chicken or mutton kadai, which is a curry cooked in a karahi – a type of round cooking vessel similar to a flat-bottomed wok.

 Pakistani Curry Spices Common Pakistani Curry Ingredients 
 Bay leaves, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, coriander, garlic, ginger, green chilies, onion, red chilies, turmeric  Cabbage, cauliflower, chickpeas, cream, eggplant, gourd, greens, lady finger, lentils, lotus root, nuts, okra, paneer, potato, rutabaga, tomatoes, yogurt


Punjab

Punjab is a region that stretches across both Pakistan and India. Curries in this region feature a variety of spice blends, but masala-style curry is the most popular. Dishes are often cooked in a tandoor. Dairy is a common ingredient in Punjabi curry, and most of the vegetables or meats are cooked with ghee – purified butter. Popular curries include pakora curry (fried vegetable fritters in a curry sauce). Curries are often served with naan, an Indian bread.

 Punjabi Curry Spices Common Punjabi Curry Ingredients 
 Asafetida, bay leaves, cardamom, cloves, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, peppercorns, pippali, red chilies  Cream, kidney beans, lentils, mushrooms, mustard leaves, onions, paneer, spinach, tomatoes


Sri Lanka

The island of Sri Lanka is host to a wide variety of curries, which along with rice make up the staple of Sri Lankan cuisine. Sri Lankan curry is reknowned for being particularly spicy. Most Sri Lankan meals are served with a protein curry and side curries made with vegetables, pulses or even fruit, such as mango or apple curry. Curries in Sri Lanka usually contain coconut milk and often even grated coconut. Sri Lankan curries can be served alongside chutneys, pickles or sambol – a paste made with chilies, onions and dried maldive fish. A popular unique curry dish is lamparis – rice cooked in a curry-flavored broth. Curries are so ubiquitous in Sri Lanka that there is even a word for a dish of mixed, leftover curries: koola’ya.

 Sri Lankan Curry Spices Common Sri Lankan Curry Ingredients 
 Black pepper, cardamom, coriander, cumin, curry tree leaves, green chilies, red chilies, tamarind  Apples, beef, chicken, coconut meat, coconut milk, dried maldive fish, eggs, gourd, jackfruit, lentils, lime, mango, mutton, onions, pork, potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, tomatoes


Thailand

In Thailand, curries are often categorized by their color. Green curry derives its color from green chilies and basil, red curry from red chilies, and yellow curry from turmeric. Other popular Thai curries that do not fall into these categories include massaman curry (spicy curry made with roasted peanuts) and panang curry (a milder, creamy beef curry), as well as several orange or golden water-based curries that are spicier because they do not contain coconut milk. Thailand is home to a diverse group of curries unique to Thai cuisine, most of which have become increasingly popular in the Western hemisphere.  » Thai Curry Guide

 Thai Curry Spices  Common Thai Curry Ingredients
 Black pepper, cardamom, coriander, cumin, curry tree leaves, green chilies, red chilies, tamarind  Apples, beef, chicken, coconut meat, coconut milk, dried maldive fish, eggs, gourd, jackfruit, lentils, lime, mango, mutton, onions, pork, potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, tomatoes


Curry in the Rest of the World
Because of the trade with the East Indies, curry dishes developed several centuries ago in Africa, Europe and the rest of the Western Hemisphere. Unique curry dishes can be found in Great Britain, Ethiopia, South Africa, Central Africa, Germany and the Caribbean. Most of these dishes are based off of Indian or Bangladeshi curries. With the spread of curries throughout the world, “curry” is now often used to describe a variety of dishes from around the globe.
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