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Vindaloo, a particularly spicy curry dish. Photograph: Robyn Lee

What Is Curry?

Curry is an umbrella term for many dishes throughout the world, particularly Asia, that are simmered in or covered with a sauce full of spices and herbs. There is no one specific "curry." It's just a combination of flavors and textures, usually served with meat, chicken, fish, vegetables or even fruit.

How Curries Vary By Region

Indian

These curries are made with a number of toasted and ground spices (called masala) that vary by family, generation, and region. "Trying to define curry is like trying to grasp liquid mercury and gather it into a neat pile," said Raghavan Iyer, author of 660 Curries, a cookbook that focuses on Indian curries. Some spices that are traditionally involved include cumin, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, cardamom, mustard, fennel, and ginger. Indian curry dishes also vary by region.

Thai

More soup-like than their thicker Indian cousins, these curries are made from a paste of grounded chilies, then added to aromatics (like galangal, lemon grass, lime leaves, and garlic) and coconut milk or water. The coconut milk-based curries are less spicy than the water-based ones since the milk calms the tongue. They are often described by color—yellows, for example, are full of turmeric and cumin while reds and greens are dominated by red and green chilis. As with other regional curries, the sauce covers a combination of meats and vegetables.

British

They resemble the Indian style of curry (made from whole, ground spices instead of a chili paste). Curry is so ubiquitous in the UK, you can find it at fast-food outlets for dousing chips, as a microwavable meal, or a pizza topping. Chicken Tikka Masala, one popular curry dish, has even been dubbed the "British national dish."

Chinese

Often made with soy sauce, coconut milk, and a bunch of spices, this mildly spicy (and usually yellow) curry tops meats, veggies, steamed rice, or noodles.

Japanese

Curry is huge in Japanese cuisine. The standard contains: onions, carrots, potatoes, sometimes celery, and a token meat (often pork) that's cooked in a large pot.

Recipes

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