A Compendium Of Curry: You'll Be Bowled Over By These Varieties
Image Credit: PEXELS

CURRY is a dish that has a fascinating history, steeped in rich traditions and flavours that have absorbed influences from around the world. As it travelled across continents, it adapted to local tastes, ingredients, and culinary customs, creating a diverse tapestry of curry dishes we enjoy today. This compendium aims to explore how curry is interpreted and understood in different parts of the world, celebrating its versatility and cultural significance.

Australia | Colonial curries, Modern adaptations

Description: Australian curry has a unique history, blending indigenous ingredients with colonial influences. Early colonial recipes included curried possum and wombat, often adapted from British curry recipes but using local wildlife. Modern Australian curries incorporate a variety of meats, seafood, and vegetables, with influences from Southeast Asian cuisines. These curries are typically served with rice or bread. The colonial adaptation of curry reflects Australia's culinary evolution and has been discussed in works like "Parrot Pie and Possum Curry" by Lindsay F. Parsons.

Bangladesh | Bhuna, Chingri Malai Curry

Description: Bangladeshi curries like Bhuna and Chingri Malai Curry are rich and aromatic. Bhuna is a dry curry made with slow-cooked meat and spices, while Chingri Malai Curry is a prawn curry cooked in coconut milk and spices. These curries are usually served with rice or parathas. The influence of Mughal cuisine is evident in these dishes, and they have been celebrated in Bengali literature and films. Bangladeshi curries are also highlighted in food travel shows.

India | Various regional curries

Description: Indian curries vary widely from the creamy, tomato-based butter chicken of the north to the coconut-rich fish curries of Kerala in the south. Ingredients often include a mix of spices like turmeric, cumin, coriander, and garam masala, with regional variations. Common accompaniments are rice, naan, or roti. Historically, curry's roots can be traced back to the Harappan civilisation with evidence of spice blends used in cooking. Indian curries have made numerous appearances in popular culture, including books like "The Mistress of Spices" by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and films like "The Hundred-Foot Journey".

Indonesia | Gulai, Rendang, Sambal Goreng

Description: Indonesian curries like Gulai, Rendang, and Sambal Goreng are characterised by their vibrant flavours and use of local ingredients such as coconut milk, turmeric, and tamarind. Gulai can be made with various meats or vegetables and has a creamy, spicy profile. Rendang is a dry curry made with beef slowly cooked in coconut milk and spices until caramelised. Sambal Goreng, often made with tempeh or tofu, is a stir-fry curry with a sweet and spicy taste. These dishes are commonly served with rice and have been highlighted in many travel and food documentaries.

Jamaica | Jamaican Curry Goat, Curry Chicken

Description: Jamaican curries are hearty and flavourful, made with tender meat marinated in a blend of spices including turmeric, thyme, and Scotch bonnet peppers. Jamaican Curry Goat is slow-cooked until the meat is tender and is usually served with rice and peas. Curry Chicken is another popular dish, often prepared with similar spices. The introduction of curry to Jamaica came via Indian indentured labourers in the 19th century. It is celebrated in Jamaican literature and music, with references in songs by artists like Sean Paul.

Japan | Japanese Curry (Kare)

Description: Japanese curry is typically a thick, mild stew served with rice, often featuring meat (pork, chicken, or beef), potatoes, carrots, and onions. It is characterised by its sweeter flavour and less spicy profile compared to Indian curries, achieved by using a curry roux. Introduced to Japan by the British (from India) during the Meiji era, it quickly became a staple comfort food. In pop culture, it frequently appears in manga and anime, such as "Detective Conan" and "Shokugeki no Soma".

Malaysia | Rendang, Kari Ayam

Description: Malaysian curries are known for their rich and complex flavours. Rendang is a dry curry made with beef, slow-cooked in coconut milk and a mixture of lemongrass, galangal, garlic, turmeric, ginger, and chilies. Kari Ayam is a chicken curry cooked with coconut milk, potatoes, and spices, often served with rice or roti. These curries have roots in Malay and Indian cuisines and are commonly featured in festive occasions. They have been showcased in various culinary shows and competitions, including "MasterChef."

Pakistan | Nihari, Karahi

Description: Pakistani curries such as Nihari and Karahi are deeply flavourful and aromatic. Nihari is a slow-cooked stew made with beef or lamb, spices, and bone marrow, traditionally eaten as a breakfast dish. Karahi is a quick-cooked curry in a wok-like pan, typically featuring chicken or goat, tomatoes, and green chilies. These curries are often served with naan or rice. Nihari has historical roots in the Mughal Empire and is often mentioned in South Asian literature and films.

South Africa | Bunny Chow

Description: Bunny Chow is a unique South African street food that consists of a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with curry, typically made with mutton or chicken. This dish originated in the Indian community of Durban. It is known for its rich, spicy flavour and is often eaten with the hands. Bunny Chow has become a cultural icon in South Africa, frequently appearing in local media and cookbooks.

Sri Lanka | Fish Ambul Thiyal, Kukul Mas Curry

Description: Sri Lankan curries like Fish Ambul Thiyal and Kukul Mas Curry are known for their bold flavours and use of local spices. Fish Ambul Thiyal is a sour fish curry made with goraka (a type of tamarind) and spices, while Kukul Mas Curry is a chicken curry cooked with coconut milk and aromatic spices. These dishes are typically served with rice or flatbreads. Sri Lankan curries have been featured in various culinary documentaries and have a strong presence in Sri Lankan literature.

Thailand | Green Curry, Red Curry, Massaman Curry

Description: Thai curries are known for their aromatic and spicy profiles, featuring ingredients like lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves. Green Curry is typically the spiciest, made with green chillies and coconut milk. Red Curry uses red chillies and often includes meat, tofu, or vegetables. Massaman Curry, with its Muslim origins, combines spices like cinnamon and cardamom with peanuts and potatoes. These curries are usually served with jasmine rice. Thai curries are prominently featured in movies like "The Beach" and TV shows such as "Chef's Table."

Trinidad and Tobago | Curry Chicken, Doubles

Description: Trinidadian curries, such as Curry Chicken and Doubles, are infused with Caribbean flavours and spices. Curry Chicken is made with a blend of curry powder, cumin, and hot peppers, served with roti or rice. Doubles are a popular street food, consisting of curried chickpeas sandwiched between two pieces of fried flatbread. These dishes reflect the Indian influence in Trinidadian cuisine, brought by indentured labourers in the 19th century. They are frequently mentioned in Caribbean cookbooks and food shows.

United Kingdom | Chicken Tikka Masala, Balti

Description: The UK's love affair with curry has resulted in unique dishes like Chicken Tikka Masala, which features marinated chicken chunks in a creamy tomato sauce, and Balti, a type of curry cooked and served in a thin, pressed-steel wok. These dishes often blend Indian spices with British tastes. Accompaniments typically include naan bread and pilau rice. The first curry house in Britain opened in the early 19th century, and curry has since become a cultural staple, famously featured in the film "Bend It Like Beckham."

Vietnam | Ca Ri Ga

Description: Ca Ri Ga is a Vietnamese chicken curry with a blend of Vietnamese and French culinary influences. It is made with chicken, potatoes, carrots, and coconut milk, flavoured with curry powder and fish sauce. The curry has a mild, slightly sweet taste and is often served with rice or baguette. Ca Ri Ga reflects the integration of colonial and local culinary practices, often featured in Vietnamese cookbooks and travel shows.

Curry, in its myriad forms, continues to be a testament to the adaptability and enduring appeal of this beloved dish. From the bustling streets of Bangkok to the cosy pubs of London, curry offers a culinary journey that spans the globe. Whether enjoyed in a traditional setting or as a fusion creation, each curry tells a story of cultural exchange, migration, and innovation. We hope this compendium inspires you to explore the rich world of curry, one delicious dish at a time.