Let’s Talk Food: Curries from around the world

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Japanese curry.

India is the birthplace of curry, but curry has traveled throughout the world and become a staple dish in those countries that adopted the wonderful blend of spices.

When we think of Thai curry, we think of yellow, red and green curry. Kaeng kari is yellow curry, kaeng khiao is green curry and kaeng phet is red curry. There is also massaman and kaeng som.


I took several cooking classes in Thailand and we always made our own curry sauce. It is so fresh and unlike the curries we get here at the supermarket. The yellow curry paste is really yellow, not brown as we get here in plastic tubs.

Have a Thai mortar and pestle? In Thailand, there is a joke that when looking for a wife, go to her house and listen for the pounding sound of the mortar and pestle. If she knows how to make her own curry paste, marry her!

Yellow Curry Paste

1/2 lemongrass (white softer parts) sliced

2 yellow dried chilies

1/2 round onion, chopped

2 tablespoons ginger, chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

3 tablespoons nam pla fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup coconut milk

Place in a mortar and pestle and pound until a paste is formed. If you do not have one, place all ingredients in a blender and blend until a paste is formed.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

To use, place in a wok with coconut cream or oil.

• • •

Japan’s curry is called karee raisu, or curry rice; karee udon, or curry noodles; and karee pan, or curry stuffed inside a bun or roll. Japan’s most famous store-bought curry roux is Vermont Curry, made by House Food Corp. It contains honey and apples to reduce the spiciness, so even little kids can enjoy it. It, however, has no connection with the state of Vermont.

I like to make my curry roux from scratch with no monosodium glutamate, caramel color, disodium inosinate or disodium guanylate.

Homemade Japanese Curry

2 1/2 teaspoons mild yellow curry powder (recipe below)

2 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 onion, minced

3 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoons GF flour

5 2/3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1/4 cup concentrated apple juice or applesauce or grate one peeled apple

2 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 1/2 teaspoons garlic, mashed

1 1/4 teaspoons garam masala (recipe below)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Homemade Mild Curry Powder

Makes: 1/3 cup

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds

1 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns

1 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Grind coriander, cumin, mustard seeds and peppercorns in spice grinder until finely ground, 30 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl, add other ingredients.

Homemade Garam Masala Spice

1 tablespoon cumin

2 teaspoons coriander

2 teaspoons cardamom

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Mix together and store in airtight glass container.

• • •

The British love their curry, and their curry of choice is chicken tikka masala. According to Madhur Jaffrey, this curry dish might have been created in the United Kingdom.

Madhur’s Chicken Tikka Masala

Serves: 4-6

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks

Rub chicken pieces for 20 minutes in:

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Add to chicken and marinate for 6 to 8 hours (no longer or you will hurt the chicken).

1 tablespoon peeled, finely grated ginger

2 large garlic cloves, finely grated or pressed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

6 tablespoons whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

For the masala:

Place into a large nonstick, lidded pan and set it over a medium-high heat:

4 tablespoons olive oil

5 ounces onions, halved and then finely sliced

Fry until brown, 6-7 minutes. Add:

1 tablespoon peeled, finely grated ginger

6 cloves garlic, crushed

Stir for one minute. Add:

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3/4 teaspoon chili powder

2 teaspoon paprika

Stir for 10 seconds, then add:

1 tablespoon plain yogurt

Stir and fry until absorbed. Add, a tablespoon at a time:

3 tablespoons plain yogurt


2 medium tomatoes, peeled and very finely chopped. Fry them for 3 or 4 minutes, or until they turn pulpy. Add:

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Bring to simmer, cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. The sauce should turn thick. Stir in:

1/4 teaspoon garam masala

4 tablespoon chopped Chinese parsley leaves

Taste for balance or seasonings and add more salt if you need it.

Shortly before you eat, preheat the grill to its highest setting. Thread the chicken on skewers. Brush with:

3 tablespoons olive oil

Place about 5 inches from the source of heat and grill for 6 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned, cooked through and charred in places.

When the tikkas are cooked, reheat the sauce and fold in the chicken, Serve immediately.

• • •

In Indonesia, curry is called gulai and has collard greens, bison and fiddleheads.

Cambodia’s curry is eaten with a French baguette because of French influences.

Vietnam also serves its curry with baguettes. The cari ga is a chicken curry with sweet potatoes.

Malaysian or nonya chicken curry is creamy because of the coconut milk.

The Malaysians are credited for bringing curry to South Africa because of the Malaysian laborers who went to work there. Their curry is called bunny chow.

Like your curry hot? The curry from Trinidad and Tobago uses extremely hot Scotch bonnet chilies!

Pakistani curry is called nihari, a slow-cooker curry brisket, with beef brisket, onions and red chile powder.

Sri Lanka’s lamprais is influenced by Indian and Dutch cooking. It is cooked inside a banana leaf with Dutch meatballs.


Check before making curry for someone. People either love it or hate it. There does not seem to be an in-between.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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