The most popular item of Indian cuisine is the curry. It is over 5,000 years old and the word curry originates from the world’s oldest language Tamil’s word ‘kaikaari’ which popularised in its shorter version ‘kari’. Kari is basically vegetables cooked in spices. It is known worldwide as a gravy or stew-like dish with spices and seasonings usually eaten with rice or rotis.
Each region in India has its own style of cooking curry with different flavours, spices and textures which are unique to that region, however the slow cooking method and marination is a common factor that gives these different gravies the name curry. Since the authentic Indian curry is the fast becoming one of the world’s most popular regional foods, on should know a few things about it!
- Spices: Spices are a very important ingredient of Indian food. They bring a pungent flavour to the dish and are aromatic dried bark, roots, buds, seeds or berries derived from plants. On being heated, they release an aromatic flavour. Spices should ideally be stored in air-tight containers as in glass jars they can lose their aroma and potency.
- Curry: Spices like turmeric, coriander, cloves, ginger, red and black pepper and other spices are typically combined in the authentic Indian curry. ‘Garam Masala’ is a popular spice blend which is added to many Indian dishes and curry.
- Bhuna: When spices are cooked in hot oil to release their natural oil and flavours- it is called Bhuna. This removes the raw taste of the spices and Bhuna means literally to ‘fry in oil’. It is the first step in the process of cooing the curry.
- Tadka/bargar: This is similar to Bhuna, but whole spices are fried in this technique. One should be careful not to burn the spices, the moment they colour, the process is complete. It is a quick process in which whole spices are added to hot oil, especially those like cumin seeds and mustard seeds.
- Masala: Masala is usually a mixture of spices; it could be used raw as garnish on top of the cooked dish or sautéed into the dish while cooking. The most famous kind is garam masala, where each family has its own blend. Usually spices like cinnamon, clove, fennel, coriander powder, cumin and the likes are added into the mixture.
- Curry Powder: This is again a spice blend which is particularly made for curries. It is often used in America and UK and the powder usually consists of turmeric, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds and five spice powder (cardamom, black pepper seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and bay leaf) and some red chilli powder. In India, this powder is hardly used and most people mix their own powders.
- Turmeric: A deep yellow coloured spice which is available both as a powder and as dried plant root which can be grated over food. It is known as Haldi in Hindi is used in almost all dishes for its colour and earthly flavour as well anti-oxidant properties.
- Cumin: Cumin is a popular spice which is used not only in Indian dishes but also in many middle-eastern ones. It is known as jeera in Hindi. It is an important element of ayurvedic cooking as well. Indian vegetables, meats and curries and even rice are mostly flavoured with cumin seeds or powder. It is known to aid in digestion and has cooling properties.
- Tandoori: Tandoori chicken and Tandoori roti are widely popular dishes and this is a style of cooking which was popularised by the Indian state of Punjab. Often used in northern Indian and Pakistan, this technique requires a cylindrical clay oven in which food is covered over a hot charcoal fire. Temperatures can go up to 480°C (900°F) in a tandoor. Tandoori chicken is marinated before putting into the tandoor and comes out moist and succulent with a scrumptious red colour form the spices.
- Authentic Indian Cooking: Perhaps the most important element of Indian cooking is the spices which are added in small quantities and at different stages of cooking in the dishes which give them a unique taste. The process takes a longer time to cook, as nothing instant is added and everything is cooked with fresh ingredients.
The secret to making the perfect authentic curry is knowing the right blend of spices and also a decent amount of experimentation. One can try with some fresh spices which can be ground in a coffee grinder, roasted and used to make curry and even other Indian dishes.
Listed by the BBC as ‘One of the World’s Best Curry Houses’, the Indian Restaurant Aladin is famously known for serving exceptional curry in a busy bustling environment. Recently Aladin was declared as the Winner for Taste Brick Lane Curry Awards and crowned Best Curry House in Brick Lane by Celebrity Chef Ainsley Harriott with the Mayor of Tower Hamlets. The restaurant also made it to the list of the ten greatest Indian restaurants in London ever! And was awarded the customer excellence award for exceptional customer service. They serve authentic and quality Indian food and is a must try for Indian food lovers in London.