What's Curry Exactly?

Just some of the spices that make up a good curry


Over 80% of Americans are "open to trying new and different flavors" while 62% of adults who have eaten ethnic food say they are "confident in their ability" to prepare ethnic and international food according to Mintel.  What defines new, different or ethnic to me may be different to you, but it got me thinking curry. What's in curry exactly? 


Turns out there's no exacting answer when it comes to the specific blend of spices that comprise what the world calls curry. Fortunately, I recently traveled to Singapore and took a cooking class wit Cookery Magic, led by Ruqxana. Given Singapore is a veritable melting pot of spicy goodness, I was keen on learning the curry ropes.

First off, I learned actual curry leaves do not end up in a typical curry spice mixture - which is nothing more than a blend of spices.  We did crush the green curry leaves up by hand and dropped them in our bubbling pot of fish stew, but alas, the curry leaves are not really the curry of curry.

The curry leaf...which doesn't often end up in "curry spice mixes"

Instead, here is the all-purpose curry mixture we learned:

  • 3 teaspoons coriander
  • 1-3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel

All this recipeness got me thinking about curry's infiltration into everyday convenience foods as our palates expand. Take basic potato chips. The French manufacturer,  Bret's, has a mixture of coriander, cumin, ginger, sweet pepper, turmeric, garlic, and clove. Sounds promising. Meanwhile,  Kettle Brand , which produces in the United States and Britain, has red bell pepper powder, onion powder, spices, tomato powder, mushroom powder, garlic powder and dried parsley in their "red curry" option. Hmm. Personally, I like my curry to harken back to something close to that starter combo of spices I learned about in Singapore, which means I would lean towards the first chip option. Either way though, there is a curry angle for every "new, different and ethnic" palate unfolding. 

Sources: Mintel, Innovation on the Menu: Flavor Trends (2012) and US Consumer Trends (2014).