By: Halle On: December 31, 2015
With origins dating back as far as 4,500 years ago to the Indus Valley civilization, curries have a long history and take many forms. The word “curry” typically refers to a dish featuring a complex blend of herbs and spices and has been used to describe a vast number of dishes primarily from India and Southeast Asia. The spice combinations used to flavor curries vary from cuisine to cuisine and tend to reflect local flavor profiles. That said, ginger, garlic, and turmeric are three commonly used ingredients – and all three were present even in the ancient Indus Valley samples.
Both spices and contents vary from curry to curry. Some curries contain meat or fish, others vegetables, some lentils, or a combination of any of the above. Curries that include a sauce or gravy are referred to as “wet,” while curries where the liquid is evaporated during cooking are called “dry.” Curries definitely allow for a cook's creativity. So if you are wondering what in the world is in “curry powder” - the answer is that it varies! Check the label on your spice jar or on the bulk jar at the store and you'll find the list of spices that make up that particular curry powder.
Curries are more than just flavorful, warming foods - some of the spices regularly used in curries have health benefits. Turmeric, which imparts the bold yellow color often associated with curries, contains a component called curcumin. Studies have shown curcumin to be an effective anti-inflammatory, so much so that curcumin is available to purchase as a supplement. The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin are linked to reduced risks of cancer and Alzheimer's disease and effective treatments for some muscle and joint pain. The oil in coriander, another spice often used in curries, has been shown to kill E. coli, MRSA, and other bacteria often responsible for food borne illness.
If you aren't familiar with curries, Vegetable Korma is an easy and delicious recipe. This Vegetable Korma is a wet curry, with diced vegetables presented in a rich, spicy coconut milk sauce. You can serve it over basmati rice or eat it like a stew with naan on the side. Personally, I like it with garlic naan, which is easily made by warming the naan in a skillet with a little oil and minced garlic. Get the ingredients you need to make a nice warm curry at the co-op and get the recipe for Vegetable Korma here.