Curry has develop into a catchall phrase for any Indian meat, vegetable or legume dish in a sauce. However that’s a distortion. The truth is, it’s plain mistaken.

It isn’t a monolithic dish. Nor does it fall within the predefined or normal class. It may be saucy or bone-dry. It may be sassy and fiery sizzling or heady with cardamom and cinnamon or delicate when seasoned with solely salt and pepper.

All that comes by clearly in “Vegetarian Flavors With Alamelu” (Hippocrene Books; November 2020) by Alamelu Vairavan.

“Curry is a generic time period used within the context of Indian dishes,” the cookbook creator and PBS TV host says. “However not all Indian dishes needs to be labeled as curries.”

To me, a curry at all times has a particular context and doubles down on taste.

So when somebody makes a blanket assertion of both loving or hating curry, it leaves me befuddled as to which curry the particular person is referring to. Is it the creamy Mughlai-style rooster with almonds and raisins, or is it the dry pepper rooster fry? Is it the tomato sauce-based egg curry or the drier egg curry with inexperienced bell peppers and garam masala? Is it the stir-fried carrot curry flecked with mustard seeds and lentils or the sauteed inexperienced beans seasoned with cumin seeds and garnished with coconut? Or is it the korma, vindaloo or gosht?

It’s akin to saying, “I like” or “I hate” flatbread. The context will get misplaced if the flatbread isn’t specified as as to if it’s a tortilla, naan, lavash, pita or roti.

The phrase, whose roots will be traced to Southern India, has traveled far and extensive, turning up in Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Kenya, South Africa and the Caribbean. In the course of the colonization of India, the British appropriated curry from the Tamil phrase kari, which implies a dry vegetable dish or meat in a sauce flavored with spices. It additionally may have been a reference to the curry leaf, which comes from the murraya koenigii plant and is used as a taste enhancer.

However that appears to have gotten misplaced in translation.

In some cases, even when meat, vegetable and legume dishes have been given names they’re designated as curries merely due to their origin. So names like chana masala (chickpeas with spices), keema (spiced floor meat) and sodhi (greens cooked in coconut milk with spices and chilies) merely fall by the wayside.

Vairavan showcases why particular names matter when a delicacies gives all kinds of decisions like kootu, korma and poriyal on this, her seventh cookbook.

The lentil-based sauce is what defines the homey kootu. Masoor dal (pink lentils) or moong dal (break up yellow lentils) are cooked after which mixed with greens like cabbage, cauliflower and inexperienced beans.

Perfumed with cinnamon, fennel seeds, garlic and ginger, much more elements go into kormas. The creator requires almonds or cashews to be blended with unsweetened coconut and added to greens like potatoes and mushrooms.

Poriyal is principally any stir-fried vegetable cooked with a small quantity of oil. Her kale, cabbage and candy potato poriyals all are tossed with unsweetened shredded coconut simply earlier than the warmth is turned off.

When it’s certainly one of her creations, the vegetable will get no suffix and is named by what it options. Asparagus with shallots and garlic is flavored with chutney powder and shredded coconut. Black-eyed peas masala is cooked with mustard seeds, urad dal (white lentils) and sambhar powder.

Vairavan was born in Chettinad, a area in Southern India recognized for its piquant delicacies. When she moved to Milwaukee after getting married, she didn’t know a factor about cooking. So she went to stick with her aunt and uncle in New York to study the fundamentals like slicing greens and cooking rice from their prepare dinner, Natesan, who additionally hailed from Chettinad.

Certainly one of his key directions was about seasoning dishes with mustard seeds and urad dal. The oil needed to be sizzling however not smoking sizzling earlier than they had been added. And it’s a line she repeats all through the ebook.

Her recipes are simple to comply with and quick, and he or she did it to erase one other distortion.

“Indian cooking isn’t all laborious or troublesome,” she says.


Cooked in an almond-coconut sauce with cumin and fennel seeds, the potatoes and peas don’t require a lot time to embrace the fantastic perfume. Serve with flatbreads like roti or naan.

16 entire almonds, soaked in sizzling water for 10 minutes

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 recent inexperienced chili peppers

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, divided

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, divided

2 thick slices recent ginger

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 to 4 curry leaves, non-obligatory

1 bay leaf

2 to 4 ( 1/2 -inch-long) slivers cinnamon sticks

1 cup coarsely chopped onions

2 cups chopped tomatoes, divided

2 cups peeled and cubed Idaho potatoes (about 1-inch cubes)

1/2 teaspoon floor turmeric

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/4 cup chopped recent cilantro leaves

In a cup, soak entire almonds in sizzling water for 10 minutes. Take away their pores and skin.

In a blender, add coconut, inexperienced chilies, almonds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, ginger and a pair of cups of sizzling water. Grind right into a clean paste.

Add oil and butter right into a wide-bottomed saucepan over medium warmth. When the oil is sizzling and butter melted, add curry leaves, bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, remaining 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes, till it’s aromatic and seeds brown..

Add onions and 1 cup of tomatoes, and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.

Add potatoes and turmeric, and stir nicely for 1 minute. Add curry powder and stir nicely with the potatoes for a few minutes.

Add the coconut spice paste together with salt and a pair of cups of heat water and blend totally.

When the combination begins to boil, add the remaining 1 cup of chopped tomatoes and peas. Prepare dinner over medium warmth till the potatoes are tender.

Garnish with cilantro.

Serves 4.


It’s greatest to maintain all of the greens minimize and able to go earlier than you start cooking as a result of issues come collectively shortly as soon as the mustard seeds pop and white lentils flip golden. Regulate the entire pink chili as it will probably blacken relatively shortly. The kootu goes nicely with cooked plain rice.

3/4 cup masoor dal (pink lentils) or moong dal (break up yellow lentils)

1/2 teaspoon floor turmeric, divided

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon urad dal

1 entire dried pink chili

2 or 3 curry leaves, non-obligatory

1/2 cup chopped onions

1 medium inexperienced chili pepper, minced

1 tablespoon minced recent ginger

2 cups coarsely shredded cabbage

1 cup diced carrots

1 teaspoon floor cumin

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Carry 3 cups of water to a boil in a deep saucepan. Add masoor dal and 1/4 teaspoon turmeric.

Scale back warmth to medium and prepare dinner dal, uncovered, till it turns into smooth and tender, about 20 minutes. (If many of the water evaporates earlier than the dal turns into smooth, add an extra cup.) Put aside.

Warmth oil in a saucepan over medium warmth. When oil is sizzling however not smoking, add the mustard seeds and urad dal.

Cowl and prepare dinner till mustard seeds pop and urad dal is golden brown. Instantly add the entire chili and curry leaves,

Add onions, minced inexperienced chili and ginger. Stir nicely. Add cabbage and carrots, and stir-fry about 2 minutes.

Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, floor cumin and salt; stir nicely.

Instantly add cooked dal and about 1 cup of water. Cowl and prepare dinner over medium warmth for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring ceaselessly, till the cabbage and carrots are cooked and tender. Style and add extra salt if desired.

Serves 4.


Substitutions are the key right here. Don’t fret if you happen to don’t have black mustard seeds and urad dal. They are often changed with cumin seeds. As a substitute of chutney powder, you should use 1/2 teaspoon of floor cumin. And unsweetened shredded coconut can stand in for grated recent coconut.

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon urad dal

2 shallots, peeled and sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and diced (about 2 cups)

1/2 teaspoon chutney powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 tablespoon grated recent coconut

Warmth oil in a skillet over medium warmth. When the oil is sizzling however not smoking, add mustard seeds and urad dal.

Don’t stir till mustard seeds pop and urad dal turns golden.

Add chopped shallots and garlic. Stir and prepare dinner for two minutes. Add asparagus and stir, and prepare dinner for 4 minutes.

Add chutney powder, salt and coconut. Scale back warmth to medium-low and stir for five extra minutes.

Serves 4.

Tailored from “Vegetarian Flavors With Alamelu” by Alamelu Vairavan


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