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Curry and which is best?

Is it true what I heard? I spoke with a wonderful Indian woman yesterday while looking at the spices at Marshalls. I might be wrong, but not knowing how long they've been passed around, shelved and whatnot, I passed. We did get into a conversation about curry powder.

She said the best is from Sri Lanka, does anyone have any insight on this? The differences?
I was under the impression the one from Jamaica was the one to get?

I love good curry, make my own mix, but with spices I get here...

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  1. I think it probably would depend on what your cooking since I think the curry spice blends vary so much from region to region.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      Ah so not one single curry. Makes sense. I am on a quest for the most flavorful, spicy and not sure how to get it.
      Also I can not find your risotto recipe! I apologize to you I thought I'd bookmarked it.
      Without you typing it do you have the link where you posted it.. I am so sorry for asking twice.

      1. re: chef chicklet

        Remind me of which risotto recipe it was?

        1. re: MMRuth

          I think it's this one - the zucchini one?


          By the way - saw a lovely recipe for a zucchini/zucchini blossom pasta dish with bottarga - thinking I'll have to try that on the risotto next time.

          By the way - I found it by searching using my user name, yours and risotto, on the Home Cooking board.

          1. re: MMRuth

            3 zuchinni risitto, you had beautiful pictures of zuchinni flowers topping the rissotto. That's it! Thanks!!!! I will bookmark this now, I have a gaggle of zuchinni, and will go looking for blossoms. Beautiful dish!

      2. there is such a range of dishes that qualify as curries that I don't think it would be easy to say any one is the "best". Thai Curry is so different from Japanese Curry, from Indian Curry... and each of these have variations (green, red, yellow, etc) and curry itself is such a variable blend of spices.

        1 Reply
        1. re: KaimukiMan

          True, and there are also Malaysian curry, and so forth. I think it's mostly a personal preference rather than a superior quality. I myself like Thai for the coconut milk fragrance, but perfer Indian because the flavor is more complex.

        2. "Curry" is, I believe, an umbrella term used by the British, who applied it to any spicy food that looked like a stew and that was eaten by "natives". Had the US remained a British colony, they would have called our chili con carne a curry and Mole Poblano would have been "Mexican curry". So there's a whole panoply of dishes in India that the English called curries, and I don't think the people cooking them view them as being of the same culinary species.(And, if they are good cooks, they don't use prepared power, they grind their own spices. If they do use prepared powder, they usually call it garam masala, at least in Hindi). And then the word came to be used for dishes in Thailand, which are wholly different animals, which have less in common with Indian curries than American chili con carne, which at least has one spice in common. To top it off, the British introduced their generic version of Anglo-Indian curry to Japan, where the people thought of it as quintessentially English and loved it.

          That being said, my favorite curry powder is Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder, made in Connecticut under license from Merwanjee Poonjiajee Company.

          1. Try making your own "curry powder" by grinding just enough whole spices for the individual dish you're cooking. An old blade coffee grinder does the trick nicely, and the whole spices keep pretty much forever. You'll be amazed at the difference.

            Here's a recipe for a Sri Lankan curry powder:


            1. If you are looking for dried curry powders, as opposed to Thai curry pastes, take a look at Penzey's spices:


              They have amazing spices and offer great service, either through the mail or in their growing number of retail stores.

              1. brian s is spot on with his info. There is no such thing as a "curry powder" for real South Asian cooking. Maybe this Indian lady was just startled by being seen as a "native informant" and gave you some random info without explaining the details.

                Every dish has it's own combination of spices, some dishes just have a few used in varying amounts, and others have many many spices. There are now popular brands of individualized spice mixes (I use Shan Masala) for different dishes, for example you can get Qorma spice mix, Rogan Josh, Pasanda mix etc, but all of these have different spice combinations. If a S. Asian cook used one magical powder it would be way more convenient, but all of the dishes would taste exactly the same. The spice variations are an integral part of S. Asian cooking.

                Perhaps she was recommending a brand from Sri Lanka that she uses in many dishes. She must be a South Indian because I can't imagine that a North Indian origin person would prefer a Sri Lankan spice mix unless they had a particular penchant for that type of distinct flavoring.

                And yes---as Bryan S says: the word "curry" and also "curry powder" are problematic but used as catch all terms in English for anything Eastern and cooked in a gravy or for any spice mix which has turmeric in it (usually way too much turmeric, too). There is actually no such thing as an Indian "curry!"

                4 Replies
                1. re: luckyfatima

                  Thanks for that bit of information, I didn't know. Just learning to cook with garam masala, which I can grind my own. I kept thinking there might me a magical spice I'm missing out on, and sounds as if there are more than one. No she didn't recommend a brand, she explained there were spices that were far superior there to what is sold here in cans premade, that made sense. I have no idea what part of India she was from, but I might of been wrong saying she was India when she was from Sri Lanka and she was being polite not to correct me. What do you mean "prefer that distinct flavoring" what is the flavor difference? Can you try to explain that to me.

                  1. re: chef chicklet

                    prefer distinct flavoring: there is a huge amount of regional variation in S. Asian cooking and it is actually a misleading simplification to polarize North Indian-Pakistani (which are similar) versus South Indian---but still one can sort of generalize, so that's what I am doing here. Basically, South Indian spice usage and ingredients is similar to Sri Lankan (also a broad generalization here...) What is the flavor difference between S. and N.? S. Indian and Sri Lankan food depends on coconut based ingredients (oil, milk, shredded flesh), uses a lot more curry leaves (this is also used in N. Indian cooking but not to the extent in S.), uses a special kind of very hot chili, you see heavier usage of certain other spices like mustard seeds, nigella seeds than North. Also, there are certain veggies regularly prepared by S. Indians that aren't used in the N. and vice versa. So if a person preferred a Sri Lankan spice mix, I would suspect they liked that type of flavoring. Even the varieties of rices eaten in the South and in Sri Lanka are distinct. Now, I'll emphasize that I am generalizing, Madras cuisine is different from Keralite, different from Sri Lankan (which is of course a totally different country with a distinct identity from India), but they have somethings in common that put them in a category of Southern S. Asian. I am not an expert on S. Indian styles of cooking, just have some basic knowledge and like dosas...

                    Northern: for N. dishes you need garam masala, though it is not in every single dish. Northern dishes are milder in chili usage (but still hot for Westerners). N. Indian/Pak dishes use lots of yoghurt based "curries" (but also tomato based, as do S. Indians), use basmati rice (but not in all regions), wheat flour chappatis, etc. Once again, huge generalization---also, I would cut Gujarat and Bengal out of my sweep here. But U.P. cuisine, Indian Punjabi, and so forth, and also Southern Pakistani (the Northern regions near Afghanistan once again have a totally different style) have a lot in common generally speaking.

                    I would recommend that book by Madhur Jaffrey on regional Indian cookery (can't remember the title off the top of my head) and also her very extremely North Indian Introduction to Indian Cookery if you are interested in getting more in knowledge about Indian food.

                    1. re: luckyfatima

                      It's called "A Taste of India" and I would strongly second. As Fatima noted, the book is separated into sections by region and each section is prefaced by a few pages of history about the cuisine of that area. I read the whole thing from cover to cover in one sitting - it IS that interesting.

                      1. re: luckyfatima

                        luckyfatima. Thank you for posting such a wealth of information, your explanation even if generalizing was so helpful and helps me to understand my very basic question seeking an answer that can not be simply put.

                        Your verbalizing my tastes was fascinatingly true, I was not aware that there would be such differences. I will look for that book, I have read several of her recipes, and magazine bits regarding her cooking and her recipes but it was awhile ago. Thanks!

                  2. Spice shopping may be better done at Penzey's than at Marshalls.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: C. Hamster

                      Oh I agree there! I happened to just come across it. Normally I go to Ratto's in Oakland, or online for the better hard to get spices/

                    2. If you live anywhere near any Indian or Asian groceries, you'll find a variey of the key spices that make a good curry, usually whole or pre-ground. They will also have a number of curry pastes and garam masala curry-style spice blends.

                      Mail order from Penzey's is also a great choice, as mentioned elsewhere in this thread.

                      1. I use mine in a lovely cold salad.
                        For the Dressing:
                        ¼ Cup Olive Oil
                        ½ to 1 Cup Orange Juice
                        ¼ Cup White vinegar
                        2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
                        1 tsp White Pepper
                        1 tsp Garlic Powder
                        1 tsp Kosher Salt
                        1 tsp Orange Zest
                        2 tsp Tarragon
                        2 tsp Thyme
                        1 Tbsp Tumeric

                        Mix with:
                        6 Cups cooked pearl (Isreali) Couscous
                        1 Cup Green Onions
                        1 Cup Craisins
                        1 Cup Pecans
                        Good to let salad sit and stir a few hours so it can absorb the dressing.

                        1. I have iried curry blends from all over the world. Curry blends can differ from house to house.
                          Try Madras you will like it. Always saute the curry in fat or roast it dry to relaeae the oils and get a smoother flavour.

                          1. my understanding is that the word curry means simply "gravy".
                            i have sri lankan curry blends (married to a sri lankan), and would agree they are as described above by luckyfatima (very eloquent, thanks!). but i substitute when making indian dishes.
                            garam masala is different than curry blend. curry has more spices.