Synonymous with Asian cuisine, curry culture has grown in popularity by leaps and bounds across the world, especially over the last few years. Even though there's a vibrant diversity in its preparations from country to country, the phrase "Let's go out for a curry" is often heard in the Western world as an excuse to indulge in exotic cuisines that never fail to impress.
While several South Asian countries have curries as part of their everyday food, it is in India that you'll find the most complex and gastronomically pleasing options. This vast selection comes from the country's distinct regions and their ingredients. No trip to India is complete without indulging in its delightful curries that boast a delicious medley of tastes to entice and excite every palate.
table of contents
A Guide to Indian Curry: Eat Your Way Through India With These 9 Iconic Curries
Kashmiri cuisine is full of flavorful meat and intense aromas that stimulate the mind even before you take the first bite. Rogan Josh, a lamb-based curry, is by far the most famous Kashmiri dish. However the real star is goshtaba, a curry that gives the classic meatballs and gravy dish a fresh, mouth-watering transformation. Giant, soft mutton balls floating in yakhni, a sauce made by mixing yogurt and mild spices creates a carnival of flavors, a preferred choice of food during festivals and celebrations.
Photo by Vibs/Shutterstock
Among the most globally well-known Indian curries is butter chicken. A relatively new invention, it originated in the kitchen of Moti Mahal, a famous Delhi restaurant, sometime in the 1950s. A deceptively simple preparation, the dish includes adding boneless pieces of chicken into a rich, buttery, tomato gravy. Butter chicken has enthralled food lovers for decades and remains one of the most satisfying curries you can try.
Photo by www.istockphoto.com
People from various parts of India often joke that no meal in the North is complete without at least one paneer (Indian cottage cheese) dish. And they aren't wrong, since paneer forms an integral part of all kinds of food items there; from curries like paneer makhani to paneer fritters, paneer dosas, and even paneer pizzas. Paneer makhani though relies heavily on its tomato gravy made by adding cashews, cream, garam masala, butter, cardamom, ginger, garlic, chili powder and a hint of sugar. It's a smooth and non-spicy curry best devoured with a flaky hot parantha.
Photo by StockImageFactory.com/Shutterstock
A truly delicious curry that changes its form, texture, and ingredients as you travel across India, kadhi is enjoyed by people from all walks of life. Kadhi, made either with chickpea or gram flour, alters between a watery thin and medium consistency depending on the ingredients added and local preferences. While the addition of yogurt gives it a savory, more subtle flavor, in Gujarat it tends to have a sweeter disposition on account of jaggery, a kind of cane sugar.
Kadhi typically has a trademark yellow color to it, but the ingredients vary from a mixture of vegetables and savory boondi to gatta in Rajasthan, and the most common of them all, gram flour pakoras, which adds a heaviness to the otherwise light dish.
Photo by Paul_Brighton/Shutterstock
The numerous past rulers of India are often responsible for influencing the present-day cuisine. Vindaloo is one such curry from Goa that has its roots in the Portuguese meat dish carne de vinha d'alhos.
The Indian version has pork marinated overnight in garlic and either wine or vinegar. The meats tend to vary as chicken and lamb are also equally popular across the nation, but pork vindaloo is the true authentic dish. A combination of spices further adds the final flavoring to a Vindaloo, unfortunately often overpowered by chilies in many restaurants. Vindaloo, usually considered a hot dish, is a lot less spicy in its original form and is still served the traditional way in many Goan restaurants.
Kerala Fish Curry
Photo by grey color/Shutterstock
A list of all the ingredients that go into a traditional fish curry is more than enough to make the fussiest of food enthusiasts salivate. There are the different alterations in the fish used, and the method of cooking, as you travel along the coast of the country, but at the heart of it, fish curry packs intense flavors and a fiery character. Curry leaves, coconut milk or dried coconut, coriander, dried tamarind, tomatoes, chili powder and green chilies elevate the natural flavor of sardines, the fish most commonly used in a Kerala fish curry. Typically eaten with rice, fish curry is one of the most striking and flavorful curries you can have in India.
If it's a hint of drama you prefer along with your food, then the Bengali prawn curry should take care of that. While the preparation seems standard, consisting of limited ingredients such as prawns or shrimps, a five-spice mixture, onions, and green chilies in mustard oil, it is the method of cooking that makes all the difference. Daab means tender coconut, which is exactly what's used to cook the curry in. The coconut flesh and water bring about a unique flavor to the dish, which quite honestly looks and feels all the more authentic when served inside the coconut itself.
There's an unassuming simplicity to a bai that impresses gourmands with its delicate flavors. Popular in the North Eastern state of Mizoram, bai consists of pork cooked with steamed vegetables, particularly spinach, bamboo shoots, cauliflowers and beans. Best eaten with rice, the flavor it derives from the pork stock makes bai all the more delectable and a must-try dish.
Photo by www.istockphoto.com
Lentils are part of India's staple diet, available throughout the country in various forms. While dal at first thought doesn't scream "curry" in its purest form, it does have all the characteristics of the traditional dish. What makes dal even more versatile is that it can stand alone on its own along with rice or bread, but can also easily compliment a meal consisting of other foods and curries.
There are several dals available in India; however, among the most cherished is dal Bukhara. First served in a restaurant in Delhi, it consists of black lentils simmered overnight to produce a velvety smooth curry that is downright delicious.
A common misconception about Indian food is that it's all spicy. Although spices, in general, form the basis of many curries, chilies are only added to accentuate the flavor profile. Moreover, the spice levels differ considerably based on the ingredients and regions from where it originates. A good tip is to ask about the spiciness of the curry before ordering so you can request for a less spicy version if required.