Curry

I really like curry. I don't have any really authentic understanding of curry and thus usually use a powder or paste rather than making my own (I know... I know...) and don't even really make anything "authentic." There are many different styles from South and Southeast Asia, ranging from Iran all the way to Thailand, and up into China, plus various fusion adaptations so I don't feel too bad. I think my favorite is Thai green curry with bamboo shoots, chicken, coconut milk, basil and Thai eggplant.

The mix of spices in different blends alters the flavor and color of the resulting dish substantially. For instance, turmeric gives Indian style curries that glorious yellow color. Given the influence of the Subcontinent, curry has become a staple of British cuisine (thank the Lord!). You can add curry powder to all sorts of things, too: sprinkle on a cheese omelette, make curry mayonnaise, add it to roast vegetables such as cauliflower, etc. I've even heard of curry pizza (and saw it in Amsterdam) but I'm not so sure about that. Curry fries are the Subcontinentally flavored version of poutine, but we all know my opinion of that.

I learned this recipe from my friend Mike, though I think it's adapted somewhat. The dominant flavor is cumin. Traditionally this is done with pork but I suppose you could switch it with chicken, turkey or tofu easily enough. I don't think it would work well with beef.

Burmese Pork Curry

1 lb pork chops, boned and cut into small cubes
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 can bamboo shoots, drained
1 bunch cilantro, minced
1 tbsp fish sauce (or Worcestershire sauce in a pinch)
1 tbsp tamari
1 hot chili, seeded and chopped (to taste, so I usually add two)
1 tbsp canola oil
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp black sesame oil
grind black pepper
3-4 tbsp ground cumin
juice of one lime

In a large heavy skillet, soften the onion, half the garlic, celery and carrot over a medium heat in the canola oil. Add the cubes of pork and distribute so they have contact with the bottom of the pan (to get some browning) and continue to cook for about fifteen minutes. The vegetables should release sufficient liquid but you may need to add a little water. Add the rest of the ingredients except the lime, sesame oil and reserved garlic to the pan, stir, reduce heat and continue to cook until the pork is tender. Add the remaining half of the garlic about five minutes before serving and add the lime juice and sesame oil just before serving with naan or rice and a nice crisp beer like a Pilsner Urquell or Czechvar.

And here's another one I made up myself a few years ago when I still lived in Champaign. It is totally unauthentic and mixes some Indian and Thai styles together but it tastes good so who cares! It is a one dish meal. This seems like it's very heavy on the spices (and I suppose it is) but it's worth it.

Chicken Curry Champaign

2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks (or substitute tofu)
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped (seed to lower the temperature, if needed, or drop entirely and use bell pepper)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
2 cans bamboo shoots, drained
1 tbsp oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
1/2 cup water
4 tbsp curry powder (the kind with turmeric in it)
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp ginger paste (or equivalent fresh)
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 can coconut milk (can be omitted but adds a nice touch)

Marinate the chicken breasts in some soy sauce for about fifteen minutes while preparing the rest of the vegetables. Discard the marinade and brown the chicken and onions in the oil in a large skillet or sauce pan. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and simmer on low for approximately a half hour, adding extra water if necessary. The potatoes and carrots should be tender and all other ingredients cooked. Thicken with a bit of corn starch if desired.

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