Chicken is a fan favourite as it will go well in any curry.
There are different varieties of curry but no matter which one, they are the most popular dishes within Indian cuisine.
From the mild korma to the extremely spicy phall, there is something for everyone and it is one of the reasons why curry is enjoyed all over the world.
However, when it comes to the ingredients, it may be difficult choosing which ones suit which curries.
Some may not even know where to start when it comes to creating an authentic Indian dish.
While there is a range of ingredients, it becomes easier once you know what to use and what it adds to your desired curry.
Here are the ingredients to use and interchange when creating a delicious curry.
The main ingredient when making a curry is the meat. It acts as the foundation for the rest of the dish.
The most commonly used types are chicken and lamb, but some prefer to use mutton, beef, fish or pork.
Depending on the type of Indian curry you choose to make, the type of meat you use is an important decision to make as certain meats suit different curries.
Chicken is a fan favourite as it will go well in any curry. But the likes of tikka masala and korma are best suited.
It has a soft texture which absorbs intense flavours from curries which are known for their rich sauces.
When using chicken, skinless chicken breast works well as it is the leanest part of the chicken. Small pieces soak up the flavourful sauce but, be wary of overcooking as this can make it quite dry.
For those who want to make a dish which makes chicken equal to the sauce, the thighs should be used as they are parcels of juicy meat.
The meat is darker and firmer than the white breast meat and needs slightly longer to cook but it will be worth it. It holds its shape and is less prone to drying out, meaning that it is ideal when making Indian curries.
Lamb, Mutton & Beef
Another popular set of meats to use are lamb, mutton and beef. They are a lot firmer than chicken and are also fattier, meatier and have a more intense flavour.
Curries which work best with these types of meats include madras and rendang, both of which are known for their intense spices.
Rendang is a dry curry where all the flavours are infused in the meat, whereas madras has a distinctive red sauce which is spicy.
Different cuts can be used, but to get the most potential, it is best to use meat which is still on the bone as it will remain moist, yet tender when cooked properly.
These meats take much longer to cook than chicken but it is less likely to dry out.
Instead, the meat develops a deeper flavour and becomes more tender the longer it is cooked.
Fish curries are extremely popular especially in the south of India so it is no surprise if someone chooses to make one.
The type of curry is broader. Curries with a thick sauce or curries with a mildly flavoured sauce work well.
On choosing the type of fish, it all depends on what you want to achieve.
Oily fish like salmon and sardines tends to be overlooked but their stronger flavour will only add to the overall dish of the finished dish.
Tilapia can be used if the curry you want is more about the flavour of the sauce and if the fish is just there for added texture.
One thing to note is that expensive varieties are best avoided as their delicate flavours will just get lost in highly spiced curries.
Ideal varieties to use include cod. They are firmer and will hold their shape during prolonged cooking in the sauce.
While a lot of the most popular curries are made with poultry and meat, vegetarians and vegans do not need to worry as there are alternative ways to suit them.
One main change is to swap the meat for a mixture of vegetables. Not only will they offer different flavours but they also bring a lot of contrasting textures.
The likes of egg and paneer are also delicious options. Some of the most popular vegetarian curries are made with egg or paneer.
They have mild flavours but when added to the sauce, the intense flavours from the sauce are emphasised.
Tofu is another option. Like paneer, it has a mild flavour on its own but tastes great when combined with rich flavours.
Advancements in technology have enabled unique meat substitutes to be created which are ideal for vegans and those who were meat-eaters but have changed their diet.
Things like seitan and tempeh look and have the same texture as meat but are entirely plant-based. In a curry, they are delicious and a much healthier alternative.
Although meat curries are some of the popular, it is vegetable curries which are the most commonly eaten within India.
One vegetable or a combination of several are blended with an intense array of spices for a flavourful dish.
Two popular vegetables to use are okra and aubergine. While both can be made into soupy curries, they actually taste better as dried curries.
Both are fried with onions, ginger and garlic before the spices are added.
For an okra curry, chopped potatoes can be added to give the whole dish more body and an extra level of texture. When the potatoes are added, it is best to add a splash of water and covering so that the potatoes cook.
Aubergines tend to be roasted when making a curry. Other vegetables are added but it is the aubergine which is the star.
As well as the spices, the aubergine has a slightly smoky flavour which is enjoyable.
Other vegetables which are made into curries include cauliflower which is combined with potatoes to create the popular aloo gobi.
When it comes to making vegetable curries, the possibilities are endless as you can add multiple vegetables to create your own unique dish.
Daals & Legumes
Daals are also very popular as curries, especially for vegetarians and vegans.
The spelling for the curry may also be dal or dhal.
Thee are many popular daals eaten in Desi households. These include mothan di daal (brown lentils), masraan di daal (red lentils), yellow split pea daal, urad daal (black lentils) and mixed daal.
The dish is a soup-like curry made with water.
Daals need cleaning and soaking before cooking. Once ready, they do not take too long to cook.
The approach is the same for most of them, which is to boil them and add basic spices such as salt, black pepper and turmeric.
A masala is then fried separately with onions, garlic, ginger and garam masala, called the tadka. This is added once the daal is cooked.
Daals are often garnished with fresh coriander.
Other curries can also be made with legumes such as chickpeas, channa and kidney beans (rajmah). These are very popular and quick to make using tinned products.
Daals are a very staple food which are made often in Desi households and are accompanied with rice or roti.
Onions, Ginger & Garlic
These three ingredients are a must include when making a curry, no matter the type.
While garlic is not always used, those who want a curry with layers of flavour, it is best to include it.
They act as the base for any Indian curry and can be used in a number of ways. Sliced, chopped or blended into a paste are suitable but the choice is yours.
Onions tend to be added first before the ginger and garlic.
How you cook all three will affect the type of curry you want to create.
When cooking the onions, soften them without colouring for a lighter curry or cook them for longer and let them caramelise for something darker and richer.
For both the garlic and ginger, cook them until the raw smell goes away but do not cook them for too long as they will start to burn, resulting in a bitter flavour which could ruin the whole dish.
Spices are key when making a curry and there is an assortment which varies in flavour.
While they can be interchanged based on your personal preference but certain spices work better for different curries.
Dishes like vindaloo use a lot of spices especially chilli powder for a hot curry while korma is made with little to no spice, making it one of the mildest curries around.
There are two kinds of cardamom used in Indian cooking: green and black. Green is the more common variety, used for everything from spice mixes to lassis to Indian desserts.
It has a light and sweet flavour. Green cardamom can be blended whole when making spice mixes, like garam masala.
On the other hand, black cardamom is more intense with a smoky flavour.
Normally only the seeds would be used, but if the whole pod is used, it’s best to discard it before serving the curry, as it can be very spicy to bite into.
Clove is a common spice in Indian curries and its anise notes are easily recognisable.
The strong, almost medicinal flavour of cloves comes from the concentration of essential oils.
Cloves are technically flowers, and a lot of their oils are pressed out before they are dried and used in cooking.
Cloves can be used whole or blended into spice mixes. They do need to be used sparingly as they tend to overpower delicate spices.
Cumin is used frequently whole and in spice mixes to add a characteristic smoky note to Indian curries.
It can be identified by its distinct ridged brown seeds and intense fragrance.
Cumin is best used freshly ground for the most intense flavour. One thing to keep in mind while dry-roasting this spice is that it burns really easily and burnt cumin tastes very bitter and will be very noticeable your dish.
Toast this spice until it becomes fragrant then let it cool before blending into mixes.
Mustard seeds can be yellow, black, or brown and are used interchangeably in Indian curries.
The flavour of mustard seeds is released when they are crushed or cooked in oil.
Their smoky, nutty flavour is a staple in curries and curry powders, and mustard oil is commonly used in the North of India.
Turmeric is another common ingredient that is used in a lot of spice mixes and curries.
The flavour of fresh turmeric is slightly stronger than dried, and it stains very easily, so make sure you are careful with your clothes and utensils while using it.
It has a pungent, earthy fragrance. Use it in small quantities to give your chosen curry a lovely golden colour.
Red Chilli Powder
Red chilli powder is probably the most well-known Indian spice when cooking a curry.
It is what gives the dish its heat. More spoonfuls of red chilli powder will result in a hotter curry.
Not only is known for its heat but it will also give the sauce a red colour, especially if Kashmiri red chilli is used.
Fenugreek is the spice which gives Madras curry powder its very characteristic, earthy, musky “curry” flavour and fragrance.
The seeds are yellowish and look like tiny wheat kernels. Fenugreek leaves are also dried and used as a spice and are what make butter chicken unique.
Fenugreek seeds are strongly fragranced and should be used with caution, just like cloves.
Tomatoes are used to create the curry sauce and also add a sweet, yet slightly acidic flavour to the dish.
While canned tomatoes are fine to use, fresh tomatoes will improve the overall quality.
Chopped tomatoes add more volume to the sauce. For example, in matar paneer, the tomatoes give the dish more body and bring out a tangy, spicy flavour.
While tomatoes add body, they can also be pulped to make more of a sauce which will deepen in flavour when simmering. Cook until softened then mash with the back of a spoon.
Many tomato-based curries have a more intense flavour compared to cream and yoghurt-based curries.
Cream can also be added to a tomato-based curry to reduce the spiciness but it is also used to make a sauce when combined with yoghurt.
The most popular cream-based curry is chicken korma which is also made with coconut milk.
It creates a mild curry with a hint of sweetness but the sauce is extremely rich.
A concern for some is that cream is fattening and unhealthy. A healthy alternative is to use low-fat cream or to get rid of it altogether and just use yoghurt.
Although it looks like there are a lot of steps to take when making your desired curry and while there are a plethora of ingredients, they can be interchanged depending on what curry you want to make.
When it comes to the ingredients inside a curry, there is a lot of thought behind it but it will be worth it.