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Getting the Good Stuff
Living in India, one takes curry powder for granted. It's always around, and so is turmeric powder. So in India, one does not really notice the great benefits of curry powder. But outside India, people use curry powder and turmeric powder very little. When they add them to their lives, the benefits are noticed within a day or less. The handwriting, if it has become shaky, again becomes focused and clear. The memory sharpens up. The sense of being able to organize your life clears up again.
So, for those of us outside India, we want to waste no time in adding curry powder and turmeric powder to our lives. The author of this website decided right away to add some to every meal.
#1 Parmesan Cheese Shaker, best for sprinkling larger amounts for use at the stove
#2 Salt shaker with one or more holes drilled larger
#3 Spice tin, re-filled with curry powder
#4 Tooth-pick container (China-town), with closeable revolving top
If it's not in a shaker, you won't use it.
Regular salt shakers don't work for curry powder because the holes are too small. Above are some shakers that work well. The parmesan cheese shaker is especially easy to use, but is slightly bulky for a spice shelf. The square glass shakers with extra holes drilled out allow many different powders to be kept neatly in the kitchen in a smaller space. And they work very well on the table. Plus, these flat-sided bottles take labels nicely. (See below for fuller details.)
The easiest way to use curry powder is to keep a shaker right at the table. This can be combined with adding a little or a lot (1/4 cup or so per dish) to foods as they cook. One can easily make holes in jar lids, using a nail to punch through metal lids, or heating the nail in a flame (holding it with pliers) to melt through plastic lids. If you do this, be sure to remove the berm of plastic that forms around the hole; it may fall off in your food otherwise!
How much to use?
If you've never used curry powder, start out using it about like salt or pepper at the table. After being accustomed to it, use it a bit more heavily at the table if you like. If enjoyable, use it a lot more heavily in cooking. See the Cooking With It page for ideas and links. The important thing is, in this website's opinion, to use it at every meal for a few days, to give it a good test.
Anyone with severe gall bladder problems should be very careful. Curry powder stimulates the digestive organs.
In fact, it stimulates many organs. You may find your life suddenly more and more stimulating!
Shakers upon Shakers
Shakers must have BIG holes.
Smart & Final's fluted parmesan cheese shakers (2 for $3) are really very handy for cooking with curry powder, because of the several large holes, allowing amounts that meet the needs of cooking. They also let the aroma of the curry powder fill the room.
Chinatowns sell toothpicks in little containers with rotating lids, that let the holes be covered up (and even have a choice of a single hole, or five holes, as you rotate the lid). These small containers are perfect for carrying curry powder to work in a lunch sack. You do not want your curry powder to spill, as it stains quite nicely. (We are researching the stain-removal problem. Our friends in India just "smile mysteriously" when asked about it.)
Smart & Final has several kinds of salt shakers for restaurant use. We find the square ones in the photo here above (6 of them for about $7) to be quite aesthetic, but require a larger hole or two to be drilled to make them usable for curry powder. These shakers look very good with homemade labels created on one's computer. A label should always be attached when filling a bottle with anything. Masking tape works very well, also. All ingredients, plus the brand name, should be included. When drilling the shakers, leave them right in the package --- much easier to handle and drill all 6 at once. An eighth-of-an-inch drill bit works well. You'll find, once you're impressed with the use of curry powder as a necessary addition to one's life, that you want to make sure your friends and family have a curry powder shaker on hand.
Swapmeets and flea markets sometimes have novel glassware that will do very well for curry powder shakers. One lady here in Southern California (at the Costa Mesa swapmeet ~~ exit at "Fairview" to the south off the 405 Freeway, then from Fairview go left on "Fair") carries great kitchenware glass from China (where else?). Six cylindrical shakers in a wooden rack, having stainless lift-off caps over plastic lids with holes, cost $7. Perfect for the cook who wants several varieties of curry powder, masalas, and turmeric.
Use in cooking
In India, curry powder is often added to dishes by frying it first, then adding. Fry it in good oil (olive oil, 100% extra virgin, is perhaps the best), about 1/4 cup of curry powder per dish, such as curries, dahl, saag, and the like. See the Recipes section for further ideas about cooking with curry powder, and eating healthfully in the process.
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Curry: as used in India, this simply means "sauce"; Indian foods made with sauces are thus all "curries"
Curry Powder: a readily-available blend of spices which is a Western approximation of Indian spice blends, and typically contains turmeric, coriander, chillies, cumin, mustard, ginger, fenugreek, garlic, cloves, salt, and any number of other spices
Masala: In India and her neighbors, a blend of powdered spices, of a specific type for a specific type of dish; said to be about 100 kinds of masalas in Indian cooking
Garam masala: A readily-available masala composed of delicate, heat-sensitive spices; thus, it is added at the end of cooking, after the flame has been turned off (see left)
Curcumin: Confusion exists in present usage of this word; Curcumin is the name for turmeric in many countries; however, expensive products called "Curcumin" are now being sold with the vitamins at health food outlets, and research on curcumin abounds in current medical literature. Some say that curcumin is the yellow oils that give turmeric its yellow color, and which are also used as both food coloring and textile dyeing. Others call these yellow oils "curcuminoids" or "curcumin extract." Curcumin has nothing to do with "Cumin" spice (see below). See the
Curcuminoids: Chemicals in turmeric that are being studied for their physiological effects; one group of curcuminoids comprises a potent yellow-orange volatile oil (see Curcumin Extract below); this oil contains three compounds called turmerone, atlantone, and zingiberone, among other substances
Curcumin Extract: The term used by Indian pharmacists to denote the potent and expensive yellow-orange oil which is the dye substance extracted from turmeric, used both for food coloring and for textile dye; has been used for centuries in India
Curry Leaves: A plant with small, dark green leaves (about 1 inch long) that give a mild flavor to Indian food; usually used fresh, not dried; they are sometimes included in Curry Powder, but do not give Curry Powder its name
Cumin: A small, warm-climate annual plant of which the seeds are used; often mistranslated as "caraway" in curry recipes due to similarity of the Indian words for both cumin and caraway, jeera, as well as nearly-identical appearance of the seeds; assume that "caraway" means "cumin" in curry recipes; "Cumin" has nothing to do with "Curcumin" (see above)
Chilli: Red chillies, also called Red Pepper or Cayenne Pepper in America
Chilli Powder: In Asia/Europe, the powder of pure red chillies -- this would be called Red Pepper or Cayenne Pepper in America; American "Chilli Powder" is a very different blend of spices, including cumin and with very little red chilli in it, used in Chili con carne, barbecue and "Texas" style cooking
Haldi or Haldie: The Indian name for Turmeric
Turmeric: A plant of which the root resembles ginger, and is used extensively in India, which produces almost the whole world's supply, as well as consumes 80% of that supply; botanical name is curcuma longa; is native to Southeast Asia, from Vietnam to the humid hilly regions of Southern India; Indian name Haldi