Curry (Masala in the Hindi language) is a mixture of spices characterized by an intense and strongly perfumed aorma.
Origins and History –
Curry is a mixture of spices of Indian origin, universally known in the West also as curry powder.
This fragrant blend of spices can count dozens of ingredients in its different formulas; in general there is never a lack of cumin, black mustard, chilli pepper, black pepper, coriander, dried turmeric root.
The word curry is of English origin and is the phonetic transliteration of the Tamil name “dear”, which means sauce or soup. The British arrived in India have acquired this term in their language, indicating the mixture of spices as well as the cooked dish: thus the curry was born. In Italy the pronunciation “kerri” with the “e” and two “r” replaces the correct English one [ˈkʌrɪ], where the sound ʌ is an intermediate vowel between a and o as in English cup.
The history of the curry begins when the first merchants and agents of the Company of the Indies, who in the eighteenth century retired to England usually with substantial fortunes, brought with them not only indigenous servitude (including cooks), but also the habit of spicy food and spicy such as “turkarri” (stewed or stewed). The curiosity for these exotic foods spread among the bourgeoisie, but of course most families had neither the knowledge nor the ability to mix the necessary spices. Thus began to create the market for a set of different spices, easily usable and already packaged in powder or paste.
At the end of the 18th century, some English, Anglo-Indian and Dutch firms began offering blends identifying them with the term “curry”. Characteristics of these blends were the beautiful golden color, due to turmeric, and the aroma with three different intensities of hot pepper: mild (bland), hot (spicy), very hot (very spicy). The taste of curry entered the international cuisine from the 1800s, as evidenced by its presence also among the gastronomic repertoires of Escoffier.
In the Indian tradition these blends of spices, known with the term masala, lightly toasted in a pan, then finely pounded in a mortar, are today as yesterday prepared at the moment, according to religious customs or the type of dish they must accompany.
This mixture of spices was used in the twentieth century by the English army and the Japanese navy as a basic ration for their soldiers. Today it is used by Japanese self-defense forces.
On the market there are very different versions of curry, the most prized remains the Garam masala (for meat and vegetables), the red Tandoori mixture (to marinate the meats with yogurt cooked in the oven of the same name), the most markedly spicy blends Madras curry (from the name of the area of origin), and Vindaloo curry from Goa, suitable for the sweet and sour specialties of this region, with hints of ginger and cinnamon, ideal for pork and fish. We also remember the Thai green curry or kaeng khiao wan, green powder containing oriental varieties of basil. Also popular are kaeng kari or yellow curry, kaeng phet or red curry, diabolic curry in use in Singapore and Malacca (with Indian Walnut and Galangal), Prik khing traditional Chinese-Thai curry, massaman curry or nam phrik kaeng massaman , Japanese curry or karē, and many others that, in addition to or in place of the Indian curry ingredients, may contain lemongrass, shallot, coriander, chilli, cumin and other spices or essences.
The term curry is also used to indicate a homonymous variety of spicy dishes of South Asian cuisine, based on meat and / or vegetables.
Curry, contrary to popular belief, has a composition that is not universal since there are several variations, especially in India, where the mixture varies from region to region. Many countries, such as China, Japan, Thailand and Pakistan have even developed their own blends, different according to the proportion of the various spices.
In the West, however, the curry ingredients are fairly standardized (classic curry); it is therefore composed of:
– turmeric (which emerges chromatically giving the typical yellow color);
– black pepper;
– chili pepper;
Furthermore, according to the quantity of chilli pepper, there are three versions, the mild, the hot, and the very hot, (the most spicy), so as to satisfy all palates.
The spice mixture is thus of an intense yellow color, fragrant and spicy.
Active principles –
The composition of the curry, as mentioned, is very variable and varied so that it is practically impossible to establish nutritional values and contained in standard active ingredients.
However, if we refer to the most standard European composition, 100 grams of curry contain 60% carbohydrates, 10% protein and 30% fat. Furthermore, this spice is very rich in vitamins, such as A, those of group B, vitamin D, E and K, as well as minerals (potassium, phosphorus, sodium, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese and selenium) and antioxidants. As for the kilocalories, always for 100 grams of product, they correspond to about 320.
Properties and Uses –
Based on its composition, curry is considered a little caloric but it must always be remembered that it is a spice, therefore a food that goes and must be used in modest quantities. In this sense, the calories it brings are reduced.
Being composed of multiple spices, curry combines and contains many of their properties, offering not only numerous benefits, but real therapeutic effects for our body.
This spice therefore contains the following properties:
– useful for the good functionality of the digestive system, as it is able to significantly improve digestion and regulate the metabolism;
– capable of relieving nausea and vomiting, thanks to the presence of ginger;
– effective in fighting meteorism and fighting halitosis and abdominal bloating, thanks to cumin;
– has anti-inflammatory properties, useful in case of joint diseases and muscle problems. This is thanks to the presence of turmeric whose most important active ingredient, curcumin, is able to block the synthesis of eicosanoids, the molecules that mediate inflammatory processes and which are involved in the genesis of the signal that triggers pain;
– has antioxidant properties that allow it to support liver function and alleviate fatigue, promoting its purification, as well as that in the intestine;
– capable of preventing and contrasting various neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, effectively protecting brain cells from the attack of the plaques typical of this disease;
– important in fighting hypercholesterolemia and diabetes as it allows to keep cholesterol and blood sugar levels at bay;
– its anticancer action is studied. Recent studies seem to demonstrate important anticancer properties, in particular with regard to the carcinogenic forms that affect the esophagus, lungs, kidneys, liver, intestine, breast and prostate; this thanks to the ability to inhibit the transformation of healthy cells into cancer cells, as well as the proliferation of the latter;
– has an antibacterial and disinfectant action, useful for the oral cavity, teeth and intestines, thanks to cloves. In addition, cloves contain 80% eugenol, which acts as an anesthetic, therefore very useful to relieve the pain of small superficial wounds;
– has protective properties against some cardiovascular diseases, as it is able to regulate the heart rhythm and blood circulation; it also appears to have beneficial effects in the prevention of atherosclerosis;
– has the ability to eliminate certain types of mushrooms, due to the presence of coriander;
– performs a slimming action as chilli and ginger raise body temperature, inducing calorie consumption; cinnamon instead acts on the sense of hunger, reducing it, thanks to its modulating action of the release of glucose into the blood. Finally, used instead of salt as a condiment, it prevents water retention, reducing cellulite or avoiding its formation.
As for contraindications, even if curry is a real concentrate of beneficial properties due to the presence of different spices, for the same reason it can also have different contraindications, accumulating not only the positive, but also the negative properties of its components.
It is contraindicated in the presence of biliary problems, for the presence of turmeric, and in case of gastroesophageal reflux, gastritis or gastric ulcers, for the presence of pepper, which worsens both the inflammatory state and the symptoms. The presence of chilli then leads to advise against curry in individuals subject to frequent cystitis and / or in the presence of inflammation of the genitourinary system, worsening the inflammatory state.
On the contrary, curry is instead well tolerated in pregnancy, but it is still recommended to use it no more than 2 times a week.
Instead, it should be avoided during breastfeeding, as capsaicin, the substance that gives the spicy flavor to pepper and chilli, passes into breast milk.
Finally, remember that all the spices that make up the curry are gluten-free, so the mixture can be used by celiacs or in cases of hypersensitivity to gluten. However, when buying in supermarkets, both as such and added to ready-made dishes, it is good to pay close attention to the labels, because in some cases wheat starch can be added.
As said there are dozens of different curry or masala: in the kitchens of the rich Indian gentlemen there were experts in spice blends that selected and prepared the mixtures for their masters. The most famous masala are the garam masala, the tandoori masala and the pav bhaj masala.
In the West there are many dishes prepared “curry”, and it is advisable to buy the powder version because the pasta packages are more perishable.
If you want to prepare curry at home you have to reduce the individual spices in the mortar to powder until they are reduced to powder or paste.
The ready-made curry powder, once the can is opened, must be consumed in a short time because the aroma gradually decreases, and in any case it must be kept closed in a glass jar away from moisture and heat sources.
The curry paste is much better and lasts for several months.
As for the quantity to be used, it must be said that there are conflicting opinions about it: some recommend eating curry dishes twice a week while others argue that, to benefit from its properties, it is necessary to take larger quantities.
What distinguishes curry from all other spices is that this spicy flavor blend is used exclusively in addition to various types of food to enhance aromas and enhance flavors, but not in herbal tea and infusions recipes, more specifically indicated, in fact , for single spices. In Italy then, curry is used either as a single ingredient for savory recipes, but also sweet, or in the form of sauce, to accompany meat, rice or fish, or, more commonly, as a final touch, sprinkled on dishes to enrich the aroma.
In any case, curry lends itself very well as a flavoring for first and second courses, both meat and fish based, but it is also excellent in soups, broth or in addition to eggs. It also goes well with vegetables and greens.
In addition, curry can of course be used for the preparation of desserts and cookie doughs.
Finally, it is useful to remember that for its intense aroma, it can be used as a substitute for salt, to the full advantage of health, also to prevent kidney stones.
Furthermore, when using this spice, it is always good not to combine it with foods such as pepper, chilli, already contained in the curry, of which high doses can cause irritation. Similar discourse for peppers, tomatoes and all solanaceae, to avoid overdoses as these are foods that contain the minerals that are also found in curry.
Warning: The information shown is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.