Yes, curry is popular in Indian cuisine. Except it's not a singular dish that you will find across all tables. There are plenty of curries in India. Each region, each home, each religion has its own variations. This translates into a delicious abundance of liquid manna in shades of amber, red, yellow and green.
I've always been fascinated by the gushing reviews that "curry" gets in the west, especially in the UK. So on a recent trip to Britain, I was eager to try the dish that has put Indian cuisine on the world map, in its new home. I ordered the first chicken curry I saw on a menu. Suffice it to say that the only thing that I could recognize was the white rice accompanying the dish. This was no curry! The dish had barely enough gravy to smudge the bottom of the serving bowl. It did have spice, but it wasn't really amalgamated and the sweetness was disorienting.
For Indians, a curry is a fish, meat, or veggie preparation swimming in a sometimes-spicy, sometimes-mellow gravy. The copious amount of gravy is used to drape each grain of rice, till every morsel is bursting with the flavor of the aromatic spices.
There's enough space on the global table for all versions of curry, but here's a glimpse of an authentic version of Goan fish curry. The blend of spices and coconut brings out the mild sweetness of the tender fresh fish that is so abundant in Goa and around the coast of India. Serve it with steamed white or red rice.
- 7 Kashmiri chilies
- 1/2 medium coconut scraped
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 10 medium cloves of garlic
- 1/2 inch piece of ginger
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 8 curry leaves
- 2 slit green chillies
- 1 small onion slivered
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 inch thick fillets of any firm white-fleshed fish (like kingfish)
Grind chilis, coconut, coriander, cumin, turmeric, garlic, and ginger in a spice grinder or blender until very smooth. Set aside. Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed lidded saucepan over high heat until shimmering. Add the curry leaves and chillies and stir till they splutter and release their aroma, about 15 seconds. Reduce heat to medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the spice paste and keep stirring from time to time until it releases an aroma and the oil begins to float on top, about 5 minutes. Add water, stir, close the lid and bring the curry to the boil. Once boiled, check seasoning and add salt if needed. Reduce heat to low and slide in the fish fillets until they are totally immersed in the curry. Let the fish cook gently for 5 minutes without stirring. Serve immediately with steamed white rice.
Heavy-bottomed [lidded] saucepan