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Sep 21, 2012 09:31 AM

how to get restaurant quality curry?

My husband and I love Indian food. There seems to be a sort of basic curry offered at most Indian restaurants that has a brown thickish sauce. Every recipe I've tried for basic curry seems to come out watery. How do I get that thick sauce? I'm also a little baffled by the lack of name, which makes it hard to look up. Other dishes are labeled korma or vindaloo or SOMETHING but this is usually just listed as "curry" or sometimes with the restaurant's name added like "Bansaree curry".

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  1. A shot in the dark would be yogurt.

    A recipe for "basic curry" might not be what you are after. You should maybe ask the folks in the restaurant. If I'm making a non-yogurt curry, and it's a little watery, I will add a tiny bit of a cornstarch slurry.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gordeaux

      Most of the recipes I've tried include yoghurt and the restaurant won't tell me. Thanks though!

    2. Gee, I tend to have the opposite problem. Once the onions have been pureed for the base, that provides all the thickener I need. Then coconut milk helps and the yogurt at the end.

      4 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        Yes, onion and potato, once they break down, provide a nice thick base for curries.

        1. re: escondido123

          Isn't coconut more Thai?
          If anyone has any recipes I'd be grateful. What I'm looking for is a real brown curry. Most seem to have chunks of tomato or a very red look......

          1. re: dianne0712

            Virtually all the curries I've cooked start with onions which are browned. Another basic ingredients is almost always tomatoes, though the final result is not a red sauce but rather a golden one once the spices and such are added. As to the coconut milk, there are many Indian recipes that use it. If you want to see some variations--many with pictures--just do a search for "coconut milk Indian curry."

            1. re: dianne0712

              Coconut and it's milk are staples in Southern India. Kerala(a southern state in India) means Land of Coconut Palms


            I really don't like Titli's Busy kitchen, as her videos are always full of Indian food cooking flaws and sins, but her restaurant sauce base video here will give you an idea of how restaurant style curries are made using a base sauce.

            You can try out her method and see if it works for you. I would make a few adjustments to her method, though: Fry onions till soft, add in ginger-garlic paste, fry for a few moments, then either a) dump in blender with a little water and freshly chopped or even canned tomatoes or b) in the same pan dump in chopped tomatoes or can of tomatoes and some water and have a go with the stick blender. Then re-heat this ground base and cook until the oil rises to the top and most of the water has evaporated. When you see the oil start to rise, add in the spices-basic would be turmeric, red chile powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, and a pinch of garam masala. You should dry most of the water out of this, then add in more water later after cooking most of the water out of it first, which will ensure that your onions and tomatoes are thoroughly cooked, using more or less (or no) water depending on the desired consistency of your base gravy as per the requirements of the dish. IMHO blending the tomatoes with the onions and then cooking the base down yields a less grainy result than cooking down, then blending at the end.

            You can use this base for a number of things, as restaurants do, and adjust the additional spices and cooking methods based on the desired dish. Additions can include things like yoghurt, more tomatoes, ground brown fried onions, ground cashew or almond paste, dried fenugreek leaves, and many dishes will be finished with the addition of cream at the end.

            Take note that this is a very restaurant specific method, and home style curries are not typically made this way.

            9 Replies
            1. re: luckyfatima

              I can tell you know what you're talking about! Thanks for all the great info. I'm not very good at improvising spices from other cuisines so I'll have to find some kind of recipe to work from and then add your technique. Sounds like the sort of thing I'm after.

              1. re: luckyfatima

                can you tell me how to make the ginger garlic paste? Is it 50/50 in a blender?

                1. re: dianne0712

                  pretty much. you may need to add a bit of water( but be very sparing) and blend on low speed till it is smooth.

                  1. re: dianne0712

                    Yes a blender or a food processor. It can be completely pasted or just crushed, it doesn't matter. Some people do 50/50 but ginger can be really strong so I usually do about 70% garlic and 30% ginger, I'd say. I add a tiny bit of water and oil (just barely enough of each to allow for easy blending) and a pinch of salt, but many people just add water. The salt and oil make it last longer in the fridge, but since you are not cooking Indo-Pak foods every day that is probably not necessary for you. Oh, and don't worry if the garlic oxidizes and the whole thing turns green. It is perfectly fine to use.

                    1. re: luckyfatima

                      doesn't oil+garlic = botulism? How fast would I need to use this up?

                      1. re: dianne0712

                        Pretty common way to make it and I have never heard of anyone dying. You will be cooking the heck out of it anyway. If adding oil makes you uncomfortable, just don't do it.

                        1. re: dianne0712

                          No. Garlic that has botulism spores that is held in an anerobic state in a temperature and condition that the spores can develop would = botulism. If garlic +oil= botulism, most of us would be in serious trouble.

                      2. re: dianne0712

                        Here is a recipe using water and a small amount of vinegar, and no oil

                      3. re: luckyfatima

                        Hi luckyfatima,

                        Thank you for posting the directions. In a lot of videos, like this one,


                        they cook the onions, tomatoes and spices, all together, until the oil separates. In your directions, you add the spices much later.

                        Can you explain the difference and what it does? I thought the spices need to fry in the oil and get cooked in the oil for a long time...?

                        Thank you!

                      4. I love sanjay's (vahchef) video.

                        Here is a basic lamb curry, I'm sure you can substitute it with chicken, veg or fish.

                        Chicken korma

                        and his Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani is devine! This is just like the one they serve at my favourite restaurant

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: ceremonyfood

                          I watched this and it looks good, but again, the sauce is not thick. I'm talking about the kind of thick where if you draw a spoon across the dish it doesn't flow back and you can see the line.

                          1. re: dianne0712

                            That's not really the norm for curries though. Curries usually tend to have a thin sauce, so you can eat it with rice or scoop/sop it up with Indian breads, It may be helpful if you can describe the flavors -- do you taste cream, or a tartness, like yogurt, or coconut? Does it have a strong onion flavor? Pureed onions and tomatoes are usually the only thickeners used for curries -- Indian curries don't normally have cornstarch or flour added to thicken. Nuts are often used in some regional curries (ground up as thickener) but most home cooks don't do that.

                            I'm guessing they either thicken it with cornstarch or something similar, or they are not adding much water to the curry, or they just let it simmer on a back burner all day to the point that it reduces considerably. Most restaurants make a "base curry" of onions, tomatoes, etc and have it ready made to the point where the spices and meat are added during the final cooking process. That allows them to customize it as needed for each table, but shorten the cooking time considerably. My aunt owns an indian restaurant and that's what they do, and I've also heard the same from other restaurant owners (and former employees) as well. My mom used to do Indian catering and she'd do the same too (a few days ahead of time) to save time.

                            1. re: boogiebaby

                              Many, many Indian restaurants that I've been to have this type of sauce, which makes it great to scoop up! I don't detect any creaminess at all. Usually dark brown, even texture, although it certainly isn't completely smooth, oniony and meaty and spicy. If there is tomato in it you certainly can't see it, so maybe a tomato paste, but it really does't have any reddish tint at all, whereas the recipes I've tried that have tomatoes or paste in them definitely have that warm brown hue. I would say the consistancy is more like saag if the spinach is finely chopped.

                              1. re: dianne0712

                                Can you post a picture of this dish from next time you go? Broken cashews are pretty cheap, actually, and are extensively used in Indian cooking. That is a very likely component of the dish.

                        2. I made this recipe a few weeks ago and it was so thick that I ended up adding a little water:

                          The ground up cashews really make a wonderfully thick brown sauce. I used boneless, skinless thighs and browned them in the skillet first, then removed them and proceeded with the recipe as written, except that I added a touch of water along with the tomatoes because there wasn't enough liquid in the pan at that point to really braise the chicken.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: biondanonima

                            +1 ground cashews. It's used quite a bit in Indian curries and adds richness and thickness.

                            1. re: seamunky

                              It's usually the cheapest thing on the menu so I don't think it would have expensive nuts in it, though I could be wrong.