Just to clarify, I’m not talking about where the word came from. You can read lots about the word “curry” coming from kari and it means gravy or sauce. But that’s not the purpose of this blog.
What I’m talking about is the food itself.
Generally speaking, when somebody from New Zealand, Australia or the UK talks about a curry then they are talking about an Indian curry.
But lots of countries make curries where some are similar to Indian curries and some are not. The most common countries that spring to mind when you mention a curry are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Thailand. But other countries that produce curries include Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, China and Japan. And the UK.
What? The UK? For historic reasons, the British had a lengthy presence in South East Asia, especially India. The British fell in love with curries and brought the tastes back to the UK when they returned.
The British have continued to migrate around the world with a fair few settling here in New Zealand. Over the last few decades there has been a huge migration of people around the world. For lots of reasons, New Zealand is an attractive country to live and lots of people have settled here. If you settle down with a coffee in a café on a busy New Zealand street on a sunny Saturday, you’ll see people from most parts of the world walking by. And these people have brought their eating habits as well as themselves and their cultures.
When I came to New Zealand in 1985, it was pretty difficult to find a good curry restaurant. There were a few scattered around but curry was very much a “foreign” food and the average Kiwi was not interested. And it was a real chore to find curry spices to buy. But with the arrival of more and more curry-loving British and curry-making Indians, the market began to grow.
Nowadays, there are loads of good curry restaurants all over New Zealand with most of them being “Indian”, Thai and Chinese. The word “Indian” includes Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani cuisines (these three modern countries used to be the single country of India).
Enough of history (check out Google if you want to find out more).
OK, OK. So what is an Indian curry?
An Indian curry is many things. Usually it is spicy to some degree – but it doesn’t have to be spicy-hot. There are a lot of Indian curry dishes that are so mild that you wouldn’t really know that they contained spices at all. What you tend to eat in an Indian curry restaurant is a British version of a curry – the British adapted Indian curries to their own tastes and available ingredients. In fact, some curry dishes would be unrecognised in India. And, amazingly, the British invented Chicken Tikka Masala and now export tonnes of it to India.
A curry may contain meat or may be vegetarian. A lot of Indians are vegetarians (mainly, but not exclusively, Hindus) but a lot are also meat eaters (particularly Muslims and Christians).
There are lots of different types of curry, such as biryani, madras, vindaloo, jalfrezi, bhuna, dopiasa, korma and dahl (to name just a few). And there are lots of different breads and side dishes such as poppadoms, naan, samosas, bhaji and raita that are typically eaten with curries (or as snacks by themselves). And there are also Indian drinks, ranging from mango lassi, masala chai and beer. And, of course, there are desserts.
As you can see, the word “curry” covers a host of different dishes and flavours. Over the next few blogs, I’ll expand on this delicious subject. Next time I’ll talk a little about chillies and spices.