Curry Kari Gulai カリー

The most spices that make up the curry powders used in Singapore (and Malaysia) came via the spice continent -India. Coriander, although indigenous to S. Europe and Mediterranean region, is ubiquitous spice used in Indian curries, also known as Ketumbar in Malay. Cumin, also known as jintan, which probably originated in E. Mediterranean region, is also an important spice in Indian cooking. The world's most used spice -peppercorns originated in S. India -another truly amazing spice which is now widely grown in Malaysia as well. Before the arrival of chilli peppers which were introduced by the Portuguese to India, peppercorns were the source of heat (in terms of spice). That is the reason why it did not take so long for chilli peppers to be such a common spice in S. India. Not a spice but an herb, curry leaves are also widely used in Singapore cooking. All these that make up what is known as Singapore cooking is due to Singapore's unique historical background which used to be occupied by EIC, which monopolized English trade between India and China. Hence there were lots of spice traders during EIC occupation. I have used the expression the "most spices" came from India via traders because some spices such as star anise and some type of cassia bark came from China (star anise does have that fennel/anise seed flavor component and cassia bark has a cinnamon-like qualities, which could be a good substitute).

Yet the process that involves cooking curry is distinctively unique comparing S. India and Singapore cooking method. In Singapore spices are first blended together into curry powders and they are either ground together with wet aromatics such as pounded shallots, ginger, blue ginger, garlic to form a paste or made into a simple paste with the same amount of water. Making them into a paste is a definite process since it is believed that the texture of final curry will not be grainy by doing so. S. India's way of cooking curry is different. The whole spices such as cumin, fennel, mustard, curry leaf is spluttered in oil first. Then the aromatics such as shallots, garlic and ginger paste is fried till aromas are released and then the powdered spices such as coriander, cumin, chilli powder, turmeric, are fried together for quite some time until the liquid is then added. Adding the liquid right after or before the ground spices will yield in a grainy curry, which is quite the opposite of how Singapore curry is made where spices are "bloomed" in some form of liquid. But come to think of it, spice powders are not sugar or salt where when mixed together with liquid it dissolves. Powdered spices will never dissolve with liquid and will remain so in the original state as a particle no matter you saute or boil or braise. So why did this myth on grainy curry become so popular? It's an urban legend.

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