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What is a Curry?

You can distinctly remember rushing frantically to the toilet and languishing in burning relief. And you recall pledging never to eat a curry again as long as you live … if you lived through the current post-curry purge.

But there's something about a good curry that draws you back. It's right there on the menu beckoning you to select it. It's dangerous, but so tempting. It's the lure of the dark side – powerful and wonderful, but potentially vindictive and painful.

The eternal struggle with the eastern curry is a bane for the western diner. We love the curry. But we hate the curry. ARGH. It's time to put our differences behind us and get along as friends. We need to learn about one another and become informed so we know what to expect when we confront each other. We need to appreciate the finer points in our relationship.

Let's start with origin. Curries come from cultures in Asia including India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The taste and content of curries vary according to what country they are derived. It is unwise to expect a curry at an Indian restaurant to mirror a curry from a Malaysian restaurant. The ingredients, including spices, vary from cuisine to cuisine.

In Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian curries a regular ingredient is shrimp paste and coconut milk, which adds a sweet taste to the curry. In Thai cooking lime leaves and basil leaves are often used.

Sri Lankan curries are noted for their dark roasted spices, and meat items that are skinned before cooking. Burman curries are based on garlic, ginger, onions and chillies.

Basically, a curry is a spicy recipe. Some are mild and refreshing and some blast with heat. It's important to realise there are more mild curry recipes than hot ones, and every menu that lists curries will include a broad selection for all palettes. In Indian cooking, for example, the contrast between the hot vindaloo curries and the mild korma curries is wide.

Commonly used base spices and herbs include coriander, cumin, cardamom and tumeric. Other items can include mustard seeds, chilli, curry leaves, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, garam masala, onions, lemon grass and pepper.

Curries from all countries are very healthy due to the fresh vegetables used and the medicinal values of herbs and spices. For some people, curries also come in handy as a ‘cleanser of the large intestine'.

Don't be afraid of the curry. It's a unique meal that's delicious and healthy. Just place your anguished memories aside and take the plunge into the eastern flavours.


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