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Author Topic: Curry, anyone?  (Read 509 times)

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Offline MathimTopic starter

Curry, anyone?
« on: January 31, 2015, 10:26:36 AM »
I have been fond of Indian food for quite some time now, but lately I've also been discovering Thai food and its many wonderful curry-based dishes from local restaurants. My current love is Red Curry, the flavor and level of spiciness is just heavenly. Naturally, I'd like the ability to make this stuff at home (just the sauce, I'm not that wild about adding tons of veggies to it, just a nice thick sauce to cover my rice with) but I'm having trouble figuring out what approach to use (powder vs. paste) or where to obtain it for a reasonable price, in particular without having to order the stuff online.

Anyone here experienced in homemade Thai cuisine who can help me out with this predicament? Or recommend any other flavors of curry/recipes that someone who is very fond of red curry might also enjoy?

Offline Madmartigan

Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2015, 03:08:02 PM »
Not sure what kinds of stores you have access to. Our local co-op and international market both stock Maeseri curry paste (yellow, red, green, massaman). I like the massaman style best, it being heavily Indian-influenced. The pastes come in small cans. Personally, I like the pastes best. They're easy and all you need is a couple cans of coconut milk and you're good to go.

A more widespread brand you might find is Thai Kitchen, they're in all the basic grocery store chains around the US. The paste/sauce comes in jars which is nice for resealing and easily saving what you don't use but I feel they have less depth of flavor and less heat.

If you want a powder, Madras is easily available and reliable. If you're anywhere near a Penzey's spice shop, give their sweet/hot curry powder a try. I don't think powders alone lend themselves well to making a curry "sauce" without any meat or vegetable additions.

Good luck experimenting. That's part of the fun.  ;)

Offline MathimTopic starter

Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2015, 03:30:51 PM »
Not sure what kinds of stores you have access to. Our local co-op and international market both stock Maeseri curry paste (yellow, red, green, massaman). I like the massaman style best, it being heavily Indian-influenced. The pastes come in small cans. Personally, I like the pastes best. They're easy and all you need is a couple cans of coconut milk and you're good to go.

A more widespread brand you might find is Thai Kitchen, they're in all the basic grocery store chains around the US. The paste/sauce comes in jars which is nice for resealing and easily saving what you don't use but I feel they have less depth of flavor and less heat.

If you want a powder, Madras is easily available and reliable. If you're anywhere near a Penzey's spice shop, give their sweet/hot curry powder a try. I don't think powders alone lend themselves well to making a curry "sauce" without any meat or vegetable additions.

Good luck experimenting. That's part of the fun.  ;)

Fantastic information, I'd like to hear name brands that you might recommend apart from that Thai Kitchen one which you made sound unappealing (is Maeseri the brand or just a style?) and around what prices I can expect to pay for them. Also, do they come with preparation instructions or do you have any easy tips? Like I said, it's just going on my rice, nothing's getting stewed or stir-fried into it so I'm not looking to do anything fancy with it. And if the powders are as thin when making the sauce as you say, I think the paste is probably my best bet.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2015, 03:31:54 PM by Mathim »

Offline JsHLDantes

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Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2015, 07:19:23 PM »
I LOVE curry as well, especially in the colder months - it's very good, ayurvedically-speaking, for the body.

My specialties are a Thai green curry and Indian Madras curry.

The Madras curry can be created from a spice list, but the best ones to include are turmeric, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, peppercorns...and more.  I also always add coconut cream at the end (not during boiling, it destroys the beneficial characteristics of the coconut oil).

Curry is very individualistic.  In reality, curry is the same as chai..they are both generic terms that in India mean any number of variations. 

Have you ever enjoyed Ethiopian food?  Now THERE is an amazing combination of flavors that is well worth the work. 

Offline MathimTopic starter

Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2015, 07:38:16 PM »
I LOVE curry as well, especially in the colder months - it's very good, ayurvedically-speaking, for the body.

My specialties are a Thai green curry and Indian Madras curry.

The Madras curry can be created from a spice list, but the best ones to include are turmeric, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, peppercorns...and more.  I also always add coconut cream at the end (not during boiling, it destroys the beneficial characteristics of the coconut oil).

Curry is very individualistic.  In reality, curry is the same as chai..they are both generic terms that in India mean any number of variations. 

Have you ever enjoyed Ethiopian food?  Now THERE is an amazing combination of flavors that is well worth the work.

While it might be interesting to do some of that type of home cooking, I've not usually got the time nor patience to experiment with something that could quite easily go wrong, so if something is as close to ready-made as possible, that's the ideal thing I'm hoping to find. But while Red Curry is one of my current favorites, and lately one of the only I've tried, I'm not opposed to finding more types, such as the ones you mentioned, to make a meal of at home.

And I know there's probably Ethiopian restaurants in my general vicinity, I just haven't really looked but I've heard their cuisine is extremely spicy. I think I'd rather try some samples before I shell out money for something I'm not certain I'm going to be able to enjoy. Although I have to say my tolerance for spicy has definitely increased over the years. Actually I think there is one on Broadway, not far from where I work (and near my favorite used DVD and music store). Next time my friend and I go looking for something new to lunch on, we might try it. It's certainly the only one I've consciously noticed in my ten years in this town.

Oh, and I never knew what it was before since I'd only had it at Indian restaurants that did the buffet thing, but Chicken Tikka Masala is like the other greatest thing ever. Is that also available (the sauce) in pastes/powders/ready-made sauces that can be heated up or mixed? And also prices for all this kind of stuff.

Offline JsHLDantes

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Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2015, 08:01:55 PM »
What Val Kilmer, er, MadMartigan said.  :-)  Thai Kitchen is a basic green curry, the instructions are on the jar.  However, when I used it, I found I needed a lot more than the recipe called for.

Look to see if you have any international food stores.  If you can find a good Indian food store, get a Madras blend.  All you have to do if you can't deal with cutting u0p vegetables is pour in a bag of chopped carrots and potatoes (the potatoes help thicken the sauce), and if you do meat, chopped raw chicken, or tempeh/tofu (can you tell?  I'm a health food nut).

Simmer for 30 minutes minimum, serve over cooked rice.  And you can always order all this stuff from Amazon - they deliver groceries.

I make everything from scratch...we do not eat much prepared food.  Not only is it cheaper that way, but much better quality...and the freezer is your friend.

Offline MathimTopic starter

Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2015, 07:52:19 AM »
What Val Kilmer, er, MadMartigan said.  :-)  Thai Kitchen is a basic green curry, the instructions are on the jar.  However, when I used it, I found I needed a lot more than the recipe called for.

Look to see if you have any international food stores.  If you can find a good Indian food store, get a Madras blend.  All you have to do if you can't deal with cutting u0p vegetables is pour in a bag of chopped carrots and potatoes (the potatoes help thicken the sauce), and if you do meat, chopped raw chicken, or tempeh/tofu (can you tell?  I'm a health food nut).

Simmer for 30 minutes minimum, serve over cooked rice.  And you can always order all this stuff from Amazon - they deliver groceries.

I make everything from scratch...we do not eat much prepared food.  Not only is it cheaper that way, but much better quality...and the freezer is your friend.

My stovetop is kind of iffy...would a crock-pot work or is that overkill?

Offline consortium11

Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2015, 09:15:39 AM »
As others have mentioned ethnic/specialist supermarkets are the best place to find both individual ingredients and spice blend/packs; you'll generally get a far better selection and at a better price. I should note that's speaking from a UK perspective rather than a US one; we obviously have pretty deep connections with India and Bangladesh (quick bit of trivia; most "Indian" restaurants and dishes in the UK are actually owned by Bangladeshi's and cooked in a Bangladeshi style) and as such have a lot of specialist shops around.

Likewise as others have said, home made is almost always superior to prepared. It's generally cheaper (especially if you cook in bulk and freeze), you can adjust recipes to your personal taste and even without adjustment in my experience the best prepared sauces taste about as good as a mediocre home-cooked one.

Slow cookers/crock pots are perfect for currys and depending on what style you use so can an oven; dum pukht in particular is a style of Indian cooking that is based around slow and low cooking in sealed containers.

Here's my Thai Red Curry paste recipe; it's simple and quick to make and can be stored in bulk for use when you need:

Ingredients:

(Will make about half a pint's worth)

Four mid-sized red chillies (just generic chillies unless you like a specific flavour/heat level)
Four teaspoons of coriander seeds
Four teaspoons of cumin seeds
Four trimmed and chopped lemongrass stems
Two tablespoons of hot paprika
Two teaspoons of fresh grated ginger
Four shallots
Six cloves of garlic
The zest and juice of two limes

Optional Step: Split the chilies and remove the seeds. Most of the heat within a chilli comes from the seeds; for a hotter curry leave them in, for a more mild one take them out.

1) Heat a frying pan to a medium heat and gently toast the coriander and cumin seeds, tossing frequently. Heating spices allows the flavours and oils to develop and is one of the key aspects of getting the best out of them. That said less is more here when first starting out; you don't want to burn the spices (which will leave the end product tasting bitter). Try for between three and five minutes.

2) Remove the spices and crush them, preferably in a pestle and mortar but at a pinch the flat side of a blade and some heavy pressure can do the trick. You want a powder-like consistency.

3) Takes this powder and all the other ingredients, add to a food processor and pulse together until you have a paste.

This should make about eight tablespoon sized portions, with one portion being roughly enough for one person.

Now you have a paste, this is my basic Thai red curry recipe in a slow cooker: this is for a chicken and vegetable curry but you can take them out and just have the sauce:

Ingredients:

(Serves four)

One kilogram of chicken thigh fillets
Two tablespoons of vegetable oil
140ml of coconut milk
One tablespoon of brown sugar
Four tablespoons of the above Thai red curry paste
235ml/one cup of chicken stock
150g of fresh shiitake mushroom
230g of bamboo shoots
One tablespoon of fish sauce
Basil leaves (optional, for serving)

1) Using on tablespoon of oil brown your chicken in a hot pan until golden (about one or two minutes a side)

2) Reduce heat to low, remove chicken and put aside, add remaining oil and paste. Cook for one or two minutes until it becomes aromatic (i.e. the aroma is everywhere and awesome)

3) Add stock and stir until the paste has dissolved

4) Add mushrooms and shoots, leave for one or two minutes.

5) Pour over chicken (probably best to do this in the slow cooker/crock pot) and stir so everything is coated.

6) Cover and cook on high (around 195F, 90C) for three and a half hours.

7) Combine sauce, sugar and coconut milk in a bowl/jug, pour over curry and stir in. Cover and cook for around 30 minutes (still on high).

8) Either put aside to use later (it will last around four days in a fridge or you can freeze it) or take what you need, able a couple of basil leaves and serve immediately.

Ethiopian food is great. Berbere is the main thing behind the heat; for a milder version try using/asking for turmeric. Probably the first dish you'll want to try is wat, a thick stew traditionally served on top/with injera, a sourdough flat bread.

Offline MathimTopic starter

Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2015, 11:05:19 AM »
While I appreciate the info, that's way too much work and esoteric ingredients for me to have the ability to cobble together and prep. Maybe after the semester ends and I'm not going to school AND working, I'll give it a try.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2015, 11:17:18 AM »
I was going to post a recipe similar to the one consortium posted.  A lot of Indian cooking (especially curries) tend to be an all-day affair.  You really don't find too many start-from-scratch curry recipes that are quick to make.  If you want quick and dirty, your best bet is to buy one of those curry mix packets.

I think your best bet is to simply hit up an Indian restaurant/buffet when you get a real craving.  That, or get yourself an Indian girlfriend who has a mom who'll make it for you.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2015, 11:22:13 AM »
I know I've got an easy Thai peanut sauce recipe around here somewhere.  The ingredients are easy enough to find at a decently stocked market.  (Although, if you can find organic peanut butter, the looser consistency makes it easier to blend.)  It's not curry exactly, but it's good for putting over chicken or noodles.  If you'd like it, I can dig it out.

Offline JsHLDantes

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Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2015, 11:56:32 AM »
My stovetop is kind of iffy...would a crock-pot work or is that overkill?

Of course a crockpot would work.  Google is your friend.

Offline consortium11

Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2015, 12:21:32 PM »
While I appreciate the info, that's way too much work and esoteric ingredients for me to have the ability to cobble together and prep. Maybe after the semester ends and I'm not going to school AND working, I'll give it a try.

The truth is, that's what most curries (be they Indian, Thai or from somewhere else) require. They're slow cooked using ingredients that aren't esoteric in their home countries but aren't necessarily essentials here... although that said none of the ingredients listed there are exactly obscure or particularly rare outside of perhaps lemongrass. Neither is it particularly work intensive... yes, the total cooking time may be four+ hours but for the majority of that time the slow cooker is working without you having to do anything.

Take a day where you don't really have anything lined up to do or at least where there's nothing that is going to keep you out of the house for four+ hours, make the paste and make the sauce/curry. Portion it up, stick it in the freezer. Then when you want to have it take it out the freezer and give it a wack in a microwave/in a pan/in the oven to defrost and get it up to temperature, then serve. I have a similar recipe for Indian curries where I make a generic curry base in bulk which I then freeze and then when I want an individual curry bring it out, defrost and then turn into the particular curry I want.

Offline MathimTopic starter

Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2015, 05:03:32 PM »
I was going to post a recipe similar to the one consortium posted.  A lot of Indian cooking (especially curries) tend to be an all-day affair.  You really don't find too many start-from-scratch curry recipes that are quick to make.  If you want quick and dirty, your best bet is to buy one of those curry mix packets.

I think your best bet is to simply hit up an Indian restaurant/buffet when you get a real craving.  That, or get yourself an Indian girlfriend who has a mom who'll make it for you.

Well, the restaurant/buffet scene is where I found out about all this stuff but that's a lot tougher on the wallet than (I hope) the ready-made paste packets or bottled sauces. My kitchen is also extremely cramped so the amount of room for prepping ingredients and whatnot is also an issue for me so even if I had the time, it's going to be a nightmare keeping everything off the floor.

Offline Madmartigan

Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2015, 09:19:55 AM »
Fantastic information, I'd like to hear name brands that you might recommend apart from that Thai Kitchen one which you made sound unappealing (is Maeseri the brand or just a style?) and around what prices I can expect to pay for them. Also, do they come with preparation instructions or do you have any easy tips? Like I said, it's just going on my rice, nothing's getting stewed or stir-fried into it so I'm not looking to do anything fancy with it. And if the powders are as thin when making the sauce as you say, I think the paste is probably my best bet.

Maeseri is the brand name. If you want more Indian-style sauces (including Tikka Masala)  look for the Patak brand, sometimes you can find that in regular grocery stores too.

I have used potato flakes (instant mashed potatoes) to thicken sauces. Shhhh. Don't tell. It's my cheapass secret.  ;)

Offline MathimTopic starter

Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2015, 10:19:34 PM »
Maeseri is the brand name. If you want more Indian-style sauces (including Tikka Masala)  look for the Patak brand, sometimes you can find that in regular grocery stores too.

I have used potato flakes (instant mashed potatoes) to thicken sauces. Shhhh. Don't tell. It's my cheapass secret.  ;)

Oh, I'm sure there are even cheaper methods, but I'll take your secret to my grave, sir.

But thanks, I'll look for those. A friend at school said they found some stuff at Safeway that was 'fairly close to restaurant quality' so I'm going to start there since it's pretty close. But I also have some specialty stores not too far from my new place so I'll have to check some of them out too and experiment a little.

Update: So I was browsing at Target earlier today to see what they might have had and I found some little pouches with what appears to be ready-made Tikka Masala sauce AND another with Red Curry sauce, which only require that the meat and veggies be added and simmered together. I'd prefer not to get a whole pan dirty if I can help it so I'm wondering if I can just toss the pouches in some hot water for a few minutes and dump them into my bowls of rice without it being a problem...
« Last Edit: February 03, 2015, 06:45:35 PM by Mathim »

Offline Sir Percival the Gallant

Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2015, 11:45:29 PM »
Ah, more lovers of curry! I've made some of my own mixtures, but one of my favourites is Bengali five-spice powder, or panch phoron. It's equal parts cumin, fennel, fenugreek, mustard seed and nigella all ground together (I usually make a quantity with a teaspoon of each). It goes very well with fish, and there's another recipe I quite like with it of a spicy cabbage stir-fry.

Offline JsHLDantes

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Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2015, 12:54:28 PM »
Ah, more lovers of curry! I've made some of my own mixtures, but one of my favourites is Bengali five-spice powder, or panch phoron. It's equal parts cumin, fennel, fenugreek, mustard seed and nigella all ground together (I usually make a quantity with a teaspoon of each). It goes very well with fish, and there's another recipe I quite like with it of a spicy cabbage stir-fry.

Hmm.  I purchased a small amount of that from The Savory Spice Shoppe here in CO.  I tried toasting it and then added to rice...it was 'interesting', to say the least.

I will tell you though, one spice that is so intriguing is asafoetida.  Used in pagan incense blends for banishing (smells like burned bones, IMO)...but then I found out it's amazing flavor! 

Offline Sir Percival the Gallant

Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2015, 09:12:59 PM »
I will tell you though, one spice that is so intriguing is asafoetida.  Used in pagan incense blends for banishing (smells like burned bones, IMO)...but then I found out it's amazing flavor!

I've got some of that, though it's mixed with turmeric, gum arabic and a mixture of rice and wheat flour, so it's not the pure stuff. I haven't been able to taste it in any dishes I've made, though I now add it to almost everything I make with pulses.

The only Indian spice I think that I haven't managed to find is zedoary, but it's rare outside of India, though it was once very common, and it appears in historical cookery books in the West, too.

Offline MathimTopic starter

Re: Curry, anyone?
« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2015, 10:46:39 PM »
Okay, so I added the Red Curry stuff to my rice and...it's spicy but there's zero flavor that the restaurant had. Like there was no salt or something. Anyone have any ideas what should be done to make it palatable with this limited information?