Is Curry an Indian dish?

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India is the second most populous country in the world, so food, language and culture greatly vary from one region to another. There is no official national food or dish of India. Each region of the country has its own dish that remains popular among citizens and tourists.  A common thread among most regions and dishes is the use of spices, or curries, to create aroma and flavour. In Northern India, curries are thick, moderately spicy and creamy. The cuisine of Southern India is the hottest; hot peppers are used to make spicy curries. East India is known for using mustard oil and paste in a large portion of the dishes. The cuisine in West India is very diverse and largely vegetarian.

The term Curry was adopted and anglicised from the Tamil word kaṟi meaning "sauce", which is usually understood to mean vegetables and/or meat cooked with spices with or without a gravy. Curry (plural curries) is an umbrella term referring to a number of dishes originating in the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent. There are many varieties of dishes called 'curries' and dishes may contain fish, red or white meat, poultry, or shellfish, either alone or in combination with vegetables. Additionally, many are entirely vegetarian with lentils, potatoes and other vegetables. In original traditional cuisines, the precise selection of spices for each dish is a matter of national or regional cultural tradition, religious practice, and, to some extent, family preference. Such dishes are called by specific names that refer to their ingredients, spicing, and cooking methods: for example Chicken Masala, Chicken Tikka, Tandoori Chicken, Pav Bhaji.

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Spices are used both whole and ground; cooked or raw; and they may be added at different times during the cooking process to produce different results. The main spices found in most curry powders of the Indian subcontinent are coriander, cumin, ginger, chilies and turmeric; a wide range of additional spices may be included depending on the geographic region and the foods being included . Curry dishes prepared in the southern states of India may also be spiced with leaves from the curry tree.

Curry powder, a commercially prepared mixture of spices, is largely a Western creation, dating to the 18th century. Such mixtures are commonly thought to have first been prepared by Indian merchants for sale to members of the British Colonial government and army returning to Britain.

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Curries may be either 'dry' or 'wet'. Dry curries are cooked with very little liquid which is allowed to evaporate, leaving the other ingredients coated with the spice mixture. Wet curries contain significant amounts of sauce or gravy based on yogurt, cream, coconut milk, coconut cream, legume purée, tomato purée, sautéed crushed onion or broth.

Annie’s Everyday Dal

We really cannot decide which curry we like best and so, in our opinion the Indian national dish could be rice, dal and roti sabji. Because wherever you go in India, you will always find one dish in common for lunch or dinner and that’s rice and dal, which varies in its taste and preparation according to the location. Here’s a recipe for Annie’s everyday Dal:

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1 x cup of masoor dal (red lentils), 1 x onion chopped, 1 x clove of garlic chopped, 1 x thumb of ginger chopped, 1 x small red chilli chopped (optional), 8 x curry leaves, 250g mushrooms, 3 x medium tomatoes, 1.5 tsp cumin seeds, 1.5 tsp mustard seeds,  1.5 tsp turmeric,  1.5 tsp cumin powder, 1.5 tsp coriander powder, 1.5 tsp garam masala, Fresh lemon juice, Coconut oil, Tamari, Salt, fresh coriander.

In a pan, heat about two tablespoons of coconut oil.  When the oil is hot, add your cumin seeds making sure that they sizzle. This is key to creating a delicious authentic Indian meal.  Add your mustard seeds and allow them to pop much like popcorn. Add curry leaves and allow the aroma to release.  Add the chopped garlic, ginger and chilli.  Be careful not to burn. Add your onions and cook slowly until the they are golden brown.  then add the chopped mushrooms and allow to brown adding a dash of tamari.  Allow to cook.  Add tomatoes and cook until soft.   Add your cumin, coriander and turmeric powders. Mix and add a little water if it becomes too dry.  This is called your masala (your spice mix).  Now rinse the dal and add to the pan frying for about 2 - 3 minutes coating the lentils in your masala paste. You want the lentils to fry a little and turn yellow from the turmeric. Add boiling water depending on the consistency you like.  Less water for a thicker dal and more for a runnier dal.  Serve with short grain brown rice (wonderful on the digestive system).  Allow to cook for 20 minutes adding lemon juice.  Leave to stand for 15 minutes before serving.  Add salt to taste.  Garnish with fresh coriander.  Enjoy.

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A Beginner's Guide to Indian Food

And last but not least here's the duo of Brothers Green Eats with a fun and educational video about Indian food and cooking. Watch to learn a few basic dishes and ingredients and get inspired for more.

Annie Wyatt