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how to get restaurant quality curry?

dianne0712 Sep 21, 2012 09:31 AM

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".

  1. g
    gordeaux Sep 21, 2012 09:56 AM

    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
      dianne0712 Sep 21, 2012 10:01 AM

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

    2. e
      escondido123 Sep 21, 2012 10:10 AM

      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
        honeybea Sep 21, 2012 10:27 AM

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

        1. re: escondido123
          dianne0712 Sep 21, 2012 10:57 AM

          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
            escondido123 Sep 21, 2012 11:26 AM

            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
              chefj Sep 21, 2012 04:47 PM

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

          2. luckyfatima Sep 21, 2012 11:44 AM


            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.

            8 Replies
            1. re: luckyfatima
              dianne0712 Sep 21, 2012 04:45 PM

              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
                dianne0712 Sep 21, 2012 04:58 PM

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

                1. re: dianne0712
                  chefj Sep 21, 2012 05:06 PM

                  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
                    luckyfatima Sep 21, 2012 05:22 PM

                    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
                      dianne0712 Sep 22, 2012 09:10 AM

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

                      1. re: dianne0712
                        luckyfatima Sep 22, 2012 10:32 AM

                        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
                          gordeaux Sep 22, 2012 11:47 AM

                          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
                        willownt May 1, 2013 02:03 PM

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

                    2. c
                      ceremonyfood Sep 21, 2012 12:01 PM

                      I love sanjay's (vahchef) video.

                      Here is a basic lamb curry, I'm sure you can substitute it with chicken, veg or fish. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWXlKD-XGCQ

                      Chicken korma http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__5HnH1EfCo

                      and his Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani is devine! This is just like the one they serve at my favourite restaurant http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOvFCG...

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ceremonyfood
                        dianne0712 Sep 21, 2012 04:57 PM

                        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
                          boogiebaby Sep 21, 2012 05:08 PM

                          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
                            dianne0712 Sep 22, 2012 09:17 AM

                            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.

                      2. biondanonima Sep 21, 2012 12:27 PM

                        I made this recipe a few weeks ago and it was so thick that I ended up adding a little water: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                        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
                          seamunky Sep 21, 2012 01:10 PM

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

                          1. re: seamunky
                            dianne0712 Sep 21, 2012 04:47 PM

                            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.

                        2. h
                          Harters Sep 21, 2012 03:16 PM

                          Most standard "Indian" restaurants have a base sauce (or gravy) which they then add to to make up the other styles of sauce.

                          If you're trying to replicate a restaurant dish, then I'd suggesting investing in the book "The Curry Secret", by Kris Dhillion. There's a recipe for the base sauce that I reckon replicates restaurant offerings very well.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Harters
                            ipsedixit Sep 22, 2012 12:19 PM

                            Yup, base sauce is the key.

                            Here's one recipe: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/cu...

                          2. d
                            Daniellehayat Apr 30, 2013 10:57 AM

                            Hello. I can cook really great Indian food that's easy and tastes good

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: Daniellehayat
                              Harters Apr 30, 2013 11:16 AM

                              That's an interesting first post.

                              Would you say that your easy Indian food is similar to the restaurant type food that this thread is about? Do you change recipes to make them easy? Do you only cook Indian dishes or, also, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan and Pakistani?

                              1. re: Harters
                                Daniellehayat Apr 30, 2013 11:31 AM

                                I cook Pakistani recipes mostly. Yes you can compare my food to restaurant type food with a homemade twist. I do not use coconut milk ever! My sauce is always thick by using either yogurt or tomatoes! When I use tomatoes I usually let the goat or lamb simmer in them for about five hours. Chicken takes an hour with tomatoes! Yummm

                                1. re: Daniellehayat
                                  Wtg2Retire Apr 30, 2013 11:43 AM

                                  So will you share your recipe with us, please.

                                  1. re: Wtg2Retire
                                    Daniellehayat Apr 30, 2013 12:10 PM

                                    Sure!! I just made the best lamb/goat in a tomatoe curry with kidney bean rice! I have a lot of chicken recipes also that are easy! You will need to buy some spices from an Indian grocerie store! Basics are cumin seed, cumin powder, coriander,red chilie powder, turmeric and achar gosht

                                    1. re: Daniellehayat
                                      Wtg2Retire Apr 30, 2013 03:44 PM

                                      The only thing I don't have is the achar gosht but I can get that. Can hardly wait for your recipe, Danielle.

                                      1. re: Wtg2Retire
                                        Daniellehayat Apr 30, 2013 03:49 PM

                                        Shan is the brand. U can buy another brand if they don't have it. Once your ready I will tell u step by step

                                      2. re: Daniellehayat
                                        Harters May 1, 2013 01:34 AM

                                        Google tells me that achar gosht is a recipe for cooking lamb or mutton. Presumably you are suggesting using a commercially available spice mix for this dish, rather than making the masala from scratch.

                                        I know Shan sells quite a large range of ready mix products but I've always preferred to make up my own using freshly ground spices.

                                        I suppose using a commercial preparation is what you meant by your cooking being "easy"?

                                        1. re: Harters
                                          Daniellehayat May 1, 2013 05:18 AM

                                          The achar is only one recipe that uses a masala mix! The other recipes are made from scratch

                                          1. re: Harters
                                            Daniellehayat May 1, 2013 05:32 AM

                                            Today I want you to make tomatoe chicken curry.you will need olive oil, 8 cloves garlic chopped,4 chicken breasts cut into cubes, 10 plum tomatoes chopped into tiny cubes,2 onions slices thin, 1 large piece of ginger and 1 green chili. Spices are : turmeric, coriander , coriander seed, cumin seed, 3 peppercorn and salt!! Sauté oil and garlic for 1 min then add chicken to lightly brown! Then sprinkle all the spices over the chicken about 2T per spice and the peppercorn! Put the tomatoes in a blender and pour mixture over the chicken on stir! Cover and leave on medium for 45 min! The water should evaporate! Then add the onion, green chilie and ginger. Stir and cover for 10 min. The water from the tomatoes should be gone and you will have a tomatoes curry sauce?! Easy! Enjoy

                                            1. re: Daniellehayat
                                              Terrie H. May 1, 2013 05:38 AM

                                              About how much coriander and cumin would you use here, Danielle?

                                              1. re: Terrie H.
                                                Daniellehayat May 1, 2013 06:52 AM

                                                You need to sprinkle the spices over each piece of chicken. I would say at least 2T.

                                              2. re: Daniellehayat
                                                Wtg2Retire May 1, 2013 11:25 AM

                                                So, when you say "Spices are : turmeric, coriander , coriander seed, cumin seed, 3 peppercorn and salt!! Sauté oil and garlic for 1 min then add chicken to lightly brown! Then sprinkle all the spices over the chicken about 2T per spice," you use a total of 8 T of spices for 4 chicken breasts? Just want to clarify as that seems like a lot of spice.

                                                1. re: Wtg2Retire
                                                  Daniellehayat May 1, 2013 01:27 PM

                                                  Yes! It seems like a lot of spices but there's also a lot of tomatoe that absorbs the seasoning. Plus the chicken is thick. It's 4 chicken breasts in cubes not thin cutlets! U can always add but cannot take back. U will be pleased

                                                  1. re: Daniellehayat
                                                    tcamp May 1, 2013 01:50 PM

                                                    Your recipe sounds good, I'll give it a try soon. My motto is "add more chile" so it sounds perfect to me.

                                                    1. re: Daniellehayat
                                                      Harters May 1, 2013 01:57 PM

                                                      I'm surprised that your method includes adding presumably fresh coriander along with the spices at the beginning of the process. I think that I've only ever seen it suggested that its added right at the end, otherwise the freshness of the flavour is going to be lost.

                                                      Two tablespoons of each spice does seem a lot, particularly of the turmeric which can give a bitter taste when used to excess.

                                                      Truth be told, I'm not that convinced that I would like your recipe and think I'll stick with my tried and trusted recipes. But good luck to other folk who are going to try them - please come back and let us know how you get on.

                                    2. d
                                      decayny Apr 30, 2013 12:08 PM

                                      Here is my favorite Indian cookbook -- Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni. It's focused on the northern dishes, doesn't really cover the southern Indian cooking (eg, from Kerala). But all of her recipes are great and she really explains things well (for example, the different ways to cook basmati rice, how to cook the onions which are such an important part of many curry sauce bases, etc).

                                      1. missmasala Apr 30, 2013 01:12 PM

                                        Look for a recipe for lamb bhuna. Here's one from Madhur Jaffrey:


                                        I always think of the basic restaurant curry with the brown sauce as "bhuna" style. Google some images of lamb bhuna and then use the recipe that goes with a picture that appeals to you. That's what I would do, anyway.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: missmasala
                                          pine time Apr 30, 2013 02:11 PM

                                          Over 35 years ago, I began my Indian cooking with Madhur Jaffrey's Invitation to India. Have eaten many Indian regional dishes since then, but I keep going back to Jaffrey for some basics. If the OP is still on CH, I'd recommend a trip to the library!

                                          1. re: pine time
                                            Daniellehayat Apr 30, 2013 03:16 PM

                                            I have learned some great Indian recipes on you tube as well! There's an assortment of vegetable dishes and meat dishes and the cooks show you step by step! Keema matter was so hard to follow in the cook book but you tube showed me perfect!!!!

                                            1. re: Daniellehayat
                                              pine time May 1, 2013 12:24 PM

                                              Ah, showing my age here: I say library and you say YouTube. Funny, but bet I've seen only 3-4 Y.T. cooking bits--just not my way to learn. Glad we each find our own means to find new stuff!

                                              1. re: pine time
                                                Daniellehayat May 1, 2013 01:46 PM

                                                You tube is actually a great way for beginner cooks to learn because they show you step by step. I've been cooking for over 20 years. Indian food is tricky and you tube can help a beginner out

                                        2. c
                                          Chowshok May 2, 2013 07:31 AM

                                          Try this recipe. It can't get more basic and more authentic recipe for a basic curry. Vary your proteins and the spices according to your taste.


                                          Let me know your feedback. Enjoy!!

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Chowshok
                                            Daniellehayat May 2, 2013 07:56 AM

                                            Wow what a nice story and thank you for your family recipe. It looks so yummy! I'm actually going to cook it today. Thank u

                                            1. re: Daniellehayat
                                              Chowshok May 2, 2013 08:20 AM

                                              Sorry, its not my website :-) It belongs to a lady called "Prerna Singh". I just follow her awesome website with great pictures and stories relating to her delicious recipes. Makes me nostalagic and relate to my childhood memories & experiences. Check her cookbook on "Indian Slowcooker".

                                            2. re: Chowshok
                                              Harters May 2, 2013 08:36 AM

                                              Excellent link with food very much in a home style. A million miles away from the "restaurant quality curry" of the thread - but then who really would choose to eat "restaurant quality curry". It's usually very poor quality with an over-reliance on chilli and a much too much sauce.

                                              1. re: Chowshok
                                                tcamp May 2, 2013 09:32 AM

                                                nice website, thanks for sharing. I love the photography.

                                              2. Robin Joy May 2, 2013 11:10 AM

                                                I'm a curry loving Brit, and I don't think anyone comes close to Kris Dhillon's book:


                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Robin Joy
                                                  Harters May 2, 2013 11:29 AM

                                                  Great minds, etc, mate. That's the one I recommended upthread way back on 21/9/12. It really is *the* way to replicate restaurant dishes.

                                                2. p
                                                  purplepotato Jun 20, 2013 06:13 AM

                                                  Curry is more complex than most people think! I learned that from this guy :

                                                  How to create that takeaway curry taste
                                                  YouTube Name: leviteish

                                                  You must watch his videos. He takes you through all of the steps. The authentic taste comes from the spices, and the base sauces, as well as cooking technique.

                                                  I also reccommend These Indian Cooking Videos to demonstrate how to make curry:

                                                  Recipe: Kalia / Masaledar Gosht
                                                  Youtube Name: EveryoneCanCook

                                                  Recipe: Mixed Vegetables (North Indian-Punjabi Style
                                                  )Youtube Name: RARERECIPES

                                                  Best of Luck!

                                                  1. r
                                                    richardlp Mar 28, 2014 10:49 AM

                                                    So true , my first attempt is on the go now and it's runny and orange haha . I've been tangoed

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: richardlp
                                                      boogiebaby Mar 28, 2014 01:58 PM

                                                      Out of curiousity, how did you make it? I don't think I've ever had curry come out orange before (and I make a lot of Indian food).

                                                    2. m
                                                      mwk Mar 28, 2014 01:04 PM

                                                      I've made curries from scratch, and I've made them using one of the jarred curry paste mixes like Patak's or Kitchens of India.

                                                      Although the curries I make myself are very tasty, for whatever reason the ones from the jar seem to be much closer to the restaurant versions. As far as color goes, if you want the brown color, make sure to use some heavily carmelized onions as your base. Also, I've seen some recipes that use some cornstarch and water slurry to thicken it . However, I find that if I use enough onions, and the garlic/ginger paste, and let it simmer long enough, it will thicken up nicely.

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