This Curry Powder Business

I have to say this. I’ve said it before, and now I feel the need to say it again, in its own post.

Indian food (as cooked by Indians) doesn’t use “curry powder”. Curry powder is not an Indian spice. It’s probably something the Brits came up with to mimic the flavors of Indian food. But I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t. (So you can’t say I’m saying all this without even trying the darn thing). And no self-respecting Indian cook will use it either. Don’t believe me? Ask a chef. Suvir Saran was quite contemptuous of it on the Next Iron Chef.

So. If you want your food to taste ‘authentically’ Indian, or at least not taste like you’re trying to cook Indian food but you don’t really know what you’re doing, throw out the curry powder. Please. Here are two possible replacements, depending on what you’re trying to cook. For most North Indian dishes, garam masala is your basic masala. For South Indian dishes, you can use a variety of spices, but sambar masala (recipe forthcoming) or rasam podi are good bets. Unless you’re making kootu.

So yes, I’m snooty about this. So should you be. And if you use curry powder just because it’s easy to get, make your way to an India store and buy some garam masala. Or buy it online at

And make that solemn promise – no more will you desecrate your Indian food by adding curry powder.


2 thoughts on “This Curry Powder Business

  1. I’ve purchased curry powders in the past but they’ve been hot West Indian curry mixtures mainly used to flavor Jamaican Patty pastry dough and as a minor seasoning when making mustard-based Caribbean hot sauce (do a web search on ‘Homestyle Inner Beauty Hot Sauce’ it’s good stuff). For these purposes, it’s fine. But for making real “curry”, it’s awful.

    My mother recently made a curried chicken salad using curry powder from Penzey’s (an otherwise reputable spice vendor). The dish was akin to eating solid iodine…YUK.

    Yes, it’s easy to use the separate spices as needed. Even in culinary backwaters (that’s me) one can readily find cumin, coriander, garam masala, turmeric root, and red chile molido. I’m a novice at Indian cooking and my first attempts have been very tasty. How do I know this? Because my fellow Indian students say so! 🙂

    • Pontificator, high praise indeed if your fellow Indian students like your cooking 🙂
      Do post a recipe sometime, somewhere on here. I’d love to try something new.

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