Curry powders spark masala masterpieces
Seasonings: Monica Bhide shares how to use curry powders. Plus, a recipe for Curried Egg Salad with Caramelized Onions.
Scripps Howard News Service
Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a generic curry powder in a traditional Indian kitchen.
A curry powder is a collection of different spices added together in a particular proportion. Some are generic and can be used for adding an Indian touch to any dish, while others are specific and meant to be used only for specific dishes.
In India, different regions have their own spice mixes that are used to flavor curries or sauces. Spices have been used in Indian cooking for more than 3,000 years, and there are many aromatic and flavorful seasonings that home cooks can choose from to create their masala (spice mixture) masterpieces.
The British, who ruled India decades ago, to imitate and re-create Indian flavors, actually created curry powder. The commercial mixes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and vary in how hot they are.
Curry powders are about aroma and flavor. They add sweetness, bitterness, heat, sourness and even color to dishes. While most traditional Indian home cooks and chefs prefer to grind their own spices to create curries, specific curry powders like chicken curry masala, vindaloo masala and dal masala are beginning to find a home in the Indian kitchen in the U.S. and in India. In ethnic and chain grocery stores, you will find a wide variety of curry powders sold in cardboard boxes or small tins.
If you decide to cook with curry powders, they will open up a whole new avenue of flavors for your dishes. Experiment with the different brands until you find one you love. My favorite brands are MDH, Shaan and McCormick's Hot Madras curry powder.
Most commercially available powders are added during cooking and not as a garnish. Quick rule of thumb: Use a couple of teaspoons or so to flavor a dish that is meant to serve four. Taste to check seasoning and then increase if desired.
Should you buy a prepackaged spice mix, or create your own? While it is rewarding to create your own spice mixes, it requires time and patience. One has to find the right balance between authentic flavor and effort.
CURRIED EGG SALAD WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
¼ medium red onion, peeled and finely diced
½ red/orange bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
1 hot green chile, minced
1 ½ teaspoons curry powder
Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
2 cups spinach leaves
To caramelize the onions: Heat the oil in a medium skillet on medium heat. Add the onions and fry for about 5 minutes. Add the salt, sugar and pepper and saute for another minute. As soon as they change color, remove from heat and set aside until the rest of the salad is ready.
In a large bowl, mash the boiled eggs with a fork or finely chop them.
Add the onion and bell pepper and mix well.
In a separate bowl, combine the mayo, cilantro, chile, curry powder and salt. Mix well.
Add the prepared mustard and mix until well combined.
Add the eggs and mix.
Divide the spinach leaves onto four serving plates. Heap the egg salad evenly onto each plate.
Top with the caramelized onions and serve.
— Monica Bhide (from "Modern Spice,"Simon & Schuster, 2009)
Monica Bhide: email@example.com
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