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Yellow Curry Powder smell?

When I was growing up, the only curry my Mom knew was the yellow powder. Over the years I developed a huge aversion to the smell and taste. A couple of years ago, I was in a large, open restaurant with a curry dish on the menu, and it looked like only a couple of people had ordered it, but I could smell it throughout the restaurant.

My boyfriend loves spice blends, and wine.woot.com had a 4-pack of Mohini curry blends at a very reasonable price. I bit the bullet, decided I would live with the curry smell for him, and bought it. Much to my surprise, not one of them smells anything like the yellow curry I can't stand. Not a whiff or hint of it.

I've searched the web and compared ingredients between yellow curry powder and the Mohini blends: http://www.indianfusions.com/spiceble... and all of the ingredients seem to be the same. This has been driving me nuts since we received these blends, and now I think I've missed out on alot by avoiding all things curry.

Does anyone know what the difference in smell might be? Is it the proportion of fenugreek? We did decide that next time we're in the loose spice aisle that I should smell some and see.

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  1. I'm pretty sure I understand what smell you're talking about (I recall it vividly from my college days eating the 'curry chicken' at Chinese takeout places), and it's most likely the fenugreek. I've seen recipes for 'Madras Curry Powder' that call for tons of it, even made one once, and that smell took me right back to those days. It's a spice I rarely use otherwise; maybe in a vindaloo, but even then it's in low proportions.

    1 Reply
    1. re: TongoRad

      I enjoy Thai curry so when I ordered Chinese curry I was disappointed. Very different taste. I don't do that anymore.

      A brand new Chinese restaurant opened across the street so I stopped in and saw they also have a Thai menu, so I ordered the Panang Curry, which turned out to be Chinese Curry with Thai vegetables. Very disappointed, but I should have known better.

      A Jamaican friend gave me a small jar of Jamaican yellow curry powder and it tastes like Indian yellow curry. Delish.

    2. Well, curry powder was originally a British invention. I'm guessing the yellow curry powder you're referring to is that kind -- not authentic. Nowadays. more indians are using prepacked spice blends to save time, so there are some good ones out there.

      1. Old yellow curry powders like Mcormick's are absolutely vile, IMO. They have nothing to do with real Indian food. The Mccormick's stuff smells like smog or pollution to me, and tho I love Indian food of almost all kind, and make tons of Indian food at home, that Mccormick stuff is just sickening to me. Not sure if it's the fenugreek - fenugreek smells like fake maple flavoring. I honestly don't recall what that mcormick stuff smells like - I won't go near it.
        Tracylee - I also had a major aversion (I thought) to Indian food, because when I was young, my mom would make "curry" once in a while with that mcormick powder, and it was just horrible, and stunk up the house something fierce. When I went out to an Indian / Pakistani restaurant with a few friends svereal years ago, I was astonished at how good it was - absolutely delicious, and no british curry powder smell! I've been making it at home, and going out to new restaurants ever since.

        One quick thing I learned that might help you a little as you discover "all things curry" should you choose - Curry just means "sauce." There are many many different "curries." "Curry" does not mean powder. a curry can be made from a blend of dried spices, but something called "Curry Powder" will probably never be in my kitchen. I use plenty of spice mixes for specific curries, but a generically labeled "Curry Powder' is not something I'd equate with Indian food. If it is labeled for a specific curry by name, then perhaps I'd think about using it, but most of the spice blends I use tell you right up front what they are for. MIght not make any sense, but if you dive into Indian food (and I hope you do, it's sooooooo good) you'll understand right away.

        1. The smell that I find most prominent on most commercial curry powders is indeed fenugreek, followed by cumin. Try picking a bag of fenugreek seeds and seeing if that's the offending odor.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JungMann

            Fenugreek mixed with the sort of Band-aidy smell of turmeric.

          2. Thank you all! I knew I'd get an answer here.

            The boyfriend still has yellow curry powder in the cupboard and mixes it with crab when we have some leftover, but I stay out of the kitchen when he does it. The restaurant dishes I've smelled it in were in American restaurants, so I'm sure they were just using the same stuff.

            We have a number of Indian restaurants in town, and now I look forward to actually trying it out!

            1 Reply
            1. re: tracylee

              OK, we're down to two Indian restaurants in town, neither out South, and some of the reviews make it sound like they're competing for "worst restaurant in town".

              Time to make something at home! I found a recipe for baked Curried Sweet Potato Fries. I've got everything I need in the house - bonus!

            2. As others in this thread have mentioned, the quality of the curry powder means everything. I'm a HUGE fan of a good madras curry, and incorporate it in to dishes all the time, but your cheaper garden variety yellow curries suck.

              1. Well, I had a chance to smell fenugreek today, and that was definitely the smell in cheap yellow curry powders that I don't like. When I used the Mohini Tandoori blend on curried sweet potato fries, I could smell it just a bit when the blend was mixed with liquid to coat the fries, but definitely not strong enough to bother me.

                6 Replies
                1. re: tracylee

                  Well, keep in mind that tandoori masala (spice mix) is intended for use for tandoori chicken or shrimp (or even fish). That's marinated meat that's then baked in a tandoor, or for a easier home version, on the grill or under the broiler. Tandoori chicken is not a curry, so you're not going to have the same spices in a tandoori masala that would would in a chicken curry/korma/vindaloo masala.

                  1. re: boogiebaby

                    Thank you for the clarification. Since I've been avoiding anything curry all my life after growing up with the cheap stuff, I didn't research each of the blends that we have. The tandoori blend ingredients are: Ingredients: Paprika, Garlic Powder, Ginger Powder, Black Pepper, Coriander, Cumin, Fennel, Mustard Seeds, Star Anise, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Fenugreek

                    Her other blends have a similar ingredient list with Fenugreek listed last, and her recipe page has curry dishes made with the other blends, but not this one.

                    For me, it was a start with new spice blends, and I'll be experimenting further.

                    1. re: tracylee

                      It might be a good idea for you to keep an eye out for luckyfatima's posts on Home Cooking, she is incredibly knowledgeable about South Asian cooking, spices, etc.

                      1. re: tracylee

                        Fenugreek is a tricky thing. The fresh leaves, dried leaves, and seeds taste very different and the flavor can be quite strong and overwhelming if you're not used to it. However, it is a very unique spice and one that is a crucial part of many Indian dishes.

                        If you are interested in using curry powders, I would recommend making your own! They taste much better than anything store bought and you can customize the proportions of certain spices so you can get a blend that fits your tastes. Keep in mind that most authentic Indian dishes do not use premixed spice blends though...a recipe will usually call for all those spices separately, in very tiny amounts. You wouldn't think that skipping one or two would make a difference but it often does.

                        1. re: nafrate

                          Agree on blending your own curry powders. Each region in India, for example, has different takes on curry, and one ubiquitous curry powder isn't authentic curry. Take a look at some Indian cookbooks (Madhur Jaffrey or 600 Curries) to see the wide range of what curry really is.

                          1. re: nafrate

                            Thanks for the advice, nafrate. And yes, pine time, I've read about the variet here and have seen it on cooking shows.

                            I will definitely consider making my own in the future, when we start running low on the blends we have. I know they're not as good as home-made (unless I manage to create something terrible!), but my boyfriend uses them in all sorts of dishes, and I'm definitely going to try the others next time I do sweet potatos, and will ponder other dishes to try them in.

                    2. Cumin, to me, sometimes smells like BO. Every once in a while I open the spice cabinet and get a whiff. I love the taste of cumin, though, and use it frequently. That might be the culprit for you.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tcamp

                        We use cumin in a number of dishes and I haven't noticed an odd smell, and I have a really weird sense of smell sometimes. Shallots smell like BO to me.

                        Definitely fenugreek.

                      2. Consider that the fenugreek by itself or in a spice mix may just go bad.

                        I had a jar of fenugreek seeds that smelled wonderful (that maple aroma) for years then suddenly turned brown and smelled awful.

                        Since then I've had mixed success. IndoPak markets near me must be selling each other their old spices :-(. The best seeds are lighter colored and slightly yellowish.

                        Now back to commercial curry powders. IMO they usually contain WAY too much turmeric, Not my favorite aroma.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: DiveFan

                          I just discovered reading the paper this morning that we have an IndoPak market in town! Yay!

                          I stopped by the local natural food store while running errands (no WF or TJs locally, although TJs is soon to open) and noticed that none of their curry mixes/pastes had fenugreek, although some yellows had "curry powder" as an ingredient.

                          I went to lunch with my Mom and she ordered the tofu curry - I asked and it was yellow, so I went with something else. Her dish had absolutely no bad (to me) smell or flavor, although it really didn't have much flavor at all, so it's difficult to judge by that restaurant.

                          1. re: tracylee

                            Today I had a wonderful Thai green curry and thought of this thread, and wondered if you couldn't work your way towards a love of curry through the coconut-sweetened world of Thai curry.

                            1. re: GraydonCarter

                              I've looked into that, since there are vastly more Thai restaurants in town than Indian. I'm unsure about the sweetness, however. I have a bad reaction to many sweetened things, even natural fruit sugars, unfortunately. I'll have to look up the amount of sugars in Thai coconut curry recipies that have nutritional information posted.

                              1. re: tracylee

                                Beware - coconut milk by itself is not "sweet." When Thai recipes call for sugar (usually palm sugar) that's what makes their curries sweet. I much prefer my coconut milk curries without the extra sugar added. Ask for your curry to be prepared without sugar, or ask if they add extra sugar, then ask if they can omit it.