Indian is my favorite cuisine, so I’m automatically drawn to any dish that includes the word curry. But the word “curry” can encompass a lot more than many of us might realize. (For the purposes of this recipe collection, I’m focusing on Indian dishes, though other cuisines have curries as well.)
Here’s an interesting point from one of my favorite cookbooks, “660 Curries,” by Raghavan Iyer: “The word ‘curry’ itself is unknown in the Indian vocabulary. It doesn’t appear in any of India’s twenty-three officially recognized languages and sixteen hundred dialects.” Iyer suspects the term evolved as a British corruption of “kari” or “kadhi,” which described “sauced-based or gravy-laden dishes that existed in India well before the Aryans got there.”
The more European and Northern American perspective, according to Iyer, is that a curry “describes anything Indian that is mottled with hot spices, with or without a sauce, and ‘curry powder’ is the blend of spices that delivers it.” Iyer’s definition is more expansive, as you might expect from a native Indian who has written a comprehensive book including recipes for hundreds of them. “In keeping with my culture, I define a curry as any dish that consists of meat, fish, poultry, legumes, vegetables, or fruits, simmered in or covered with a sauce, gravy, or other liquid that is redolent of spices and/or herbs.”
The great thing about Iyer’s view is that it not only respects the diversity of the cuisine, but it also just means more curry for more of us. In my book, that’s never a bad thing. Here’s a roundup of some great Indian curry options from our archives.
Baked Chicken Curry, above. Like Iyer, cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey is an Indian food authority, and this recipe comes from her book “At Home With Madhur Jaffrey.” It was one of the 10 books featured in our Essential Cookbooks newsletter (sign up here).
Easy Chickpea Curry. Here’s another stellar recipe from Jaffrey and one of my all-time favorite dishes, period. It’s meatless, too.
Simple Butter Chicken. I combined a recipe from Iyer and the Indian restaurant family that claims to have invented butter chicken. It’s a winner. For what it’s worth, I’ve had multiple readers tell me it pairs beautifully with the adapted naan recipe from Iyer that I published earlier this year. For a vegan option, see Chickpea Tikka Masala.
Corn on the Cob Curry. We’re wrapping up summer corn season, so there’s no better time to try this recipe.
Bene Israel Fish Curry With Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro. Mumbai’s coastal location means seafood makes a frequent appearance in its cuisine. This dish comes from the city’s Jewish community.
Mango Dal. Iyer’s wide angle on curries means we can include this comforting, nourishing dish made with split pigeon peas. Your choice of lentils would also work well.
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