Spicy Curry in Asia
Spicy curry normally comprises of curry powder, onion, garlic, ginger, tamarind and coconut milk or yogurt. Curry powder used for fish is different from the one used for poultry and meat. Some cooks know the secret on how to blend their own curry powder and the distinctive taste differentiates one good curry restaurant to another. Curry houses in Malaysia fall in three general categories: nasi kandar, banana leave restaurant and fancy tandoori house.
There are other types of curry which do not use any coconut milk or yoghurt like Devil’s Curry which has its origin from Portuguese occupation in Malacca back in the middled of 15th century. Still, it falls in curry category because it is spicy hot, has gravy and contains a lot of herbs and spices in it.
Curry can be prepared in a saucepan, a claypot, a wok and even in a microwave. The concoction is brewed over slow fire to bring out the flavor of the spices. Normally, a day old curry tastes better than the freshly made one.
There are literally thousands of types of curries. Some are hot, some are mild, some are creamy, runny or dry. Good curry takes practice to make. Usually a new cook is not patient enough waiting for the spices to cook properly before adding in the coconut milk. Even seasoned cooks sometimes make that mistake.
It is also very versatile. Filling with spicy curry flavor is used in pies, dumplings, buns and also pastries. Some types of curries cooked in a certain ways can keep for several days. A type of Malay dried meat curry called “rendang” is popular during the big festival of Hari Raya and “serunding” can keep up to a month in room temperature. Therefore, prepared ready to eat curry can be canned, frozen, and packed in convenient packaging. Its gravy is added with vegetables, seafood, meat or poultry. It is a hearty meal to be taken alongside rice or bread.
When the onion and garlic are sauted, care must be taken not to burn them. Appropriate amount of tamarind must also be measured, too much sometimes causes the gravy to be bitter. The secret is to use low fire, stir once in a while. Must always keep an eye not to let it dry. Old mothers also said garlic and onion pounded using traditional method like pestle and mortar also will result in better tasting curry.
Chinese curries (咖哩, gā lǐ) typically consist of chicken, beef, fish, lamb, or other meats, green peppers, onions, large chunks of potatoes, and a variety of other ingredients and spices in a mildly spicy yellow curry sauce, and topped over steamed rice. White pepper, soy sauce, hot sauce, and/or hot chili oil may be applied to the sauce to enhance the flavor of the curry.
The most common Chinese variety of curry sauce is usually sold in powder form. It seems to have descended from a Singaporean and Malaysian variety, countries which also introduced the Satay sauce to the Chinese. The ethnic Cantonese being most dominant in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, this yellow, Chinese-Malaysian variety was naturally introduced to China by the Cantonese, and features typically in the Hong Kong cuisine. (Interestingly, the Malay Satay seems to have been introduced to China with wider success by the ethnic Teochew, which are not dominant in the Nusantara, but in Thailand.)
There are many different varieties of Chinese curry, depending on each restaurant. Unlike other Asian curries, which usually have a thicker consistency, Chinese curry is often watery in nature. “Galimian,” (from Malaysian “curry mee” or “curry noodles,”) is also a popular Chinese curry dish.
In Indonesian, gulai and kari or kare is based on curry. They are often highly localised and reflect the meat and vegetables available. They can therefore employ a variety of meats (chicken, beef, water buffalo and goat as in the flavoursome “gulai kambing”), seafood (prawn, crab, mussel, clam, squid etc), fish or vegetable dishes in a spiced sauce. They use local ingredients such as chili peppers, Kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, Galangal, Indonesian bay leaves or salam leaves, candlenuts, turmeric, shrimp paste (terasi), cumin, coriander seed and coconut milk. One popular curry is rendang from West Sumatran cuisine. Authentic rendang uses water buffalo slow-cooked in thick coconut milk over a number of hours to tenderise and flavour the meat. In Aceh, curries use daun salam koja or daun kari (translated as “curry leaves”). Opor Ayam is another kind of curry.
In Iranian cuisine, a ground spice mixture called advieh is used in many stews and rice dishes. It is similar to some curries. Ingredients in the mix vary, but may include cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, golpar, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, allspice, dried rose petals, and ground ginger. It is usually mellow and mild, not spicy hot.
Japanese curry (カレー, karē?) is one of the most popular dishes in Japan, where people eat it 62 times a year according to a survey. It is usually eaten as karē raisu — curry, rice and often pickled vegetables, served on the same plate and eaten with a spoon, a common lunchtime canteen dish.
Curry was introduced to Japan by the British in the Meiji era (1869–1913) after Japan ended its policy of national self-isolation (Sakoku), and curry in Japan is categorized as a Western dish. Its spread across the country is commonly attributed to its use in the Japanese Army and Navy which adopted it extensively as convenient field and naval canteen cooking, allowing even conscripts from the remotest countryside to experience the dish. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force still traditionally have curry every Friday for lunch and many ships have their own unique recipes.
The standard Japanese curry contains onions, carrots, potatoes, and sometimes celery, and a meat that is cooked in a large pot. Sometimes grated apples or honey are added for additional sweetness and other vegetables are sometimes used instead. For the meat, pork, beef and chicken are the most popular, in order of decreasing popularity. In northern and eastern Japan including Tokyo, pork is the most popular meat for curry. Beef is more common in western Japan, including Osaka, and in Okinawa chicken is favored. Curry seasoning is commonly sold in the form of a condensed ‘brick’ which dissolves in the mixture of meat and vegetables.
Curry in Korea is exactly identical to the Japanese version, having moved over from Colonial times in the early 20th century.
Sometimes the curry-rice is topped with breaded pork cutlet (tonkatsu); this is called Katsu-karē (“cutlet curry”). Korokke (potato croquettes) are also a common topping.
Apart from with rice, karē udon (thick noodles in curry flavoured soup) and karē-pan (“curry bread” — deep fried battered bread with curry in the middle) are also popular.
Being at the crossroads of ancient trade routes has left a mark on the Malaysian cuisine. While the curry may have initially found its way to Malaysian shores via the Indian population, it has since become a staple among the Malays and Chinese too. Malaysian curries differ from state to state, even within similar ethnic groupings as they are influenced by the many factors, be it cultural, religious, agricultural or economical.
Malaysian curries typically use curry powders rich in turmeric, coconut milk, shallots, ginger, belacan (shrimp paste), chilis, and garlic. Tamarind is also often used. Rendang is another form of curry consumed in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia; although it is drier and contains mostly meat and more coconut milk than a conventional Malaysian curry. Rendang was mentioned in Malay literature Hikayat Amir Hamzah (1550-an)  is popular among Indonesians, Singaporeans and Malaysians. All sorts of things are curried in Malaysia, including mutton, chicken, shrimp, cuttlefish, fish, aubergines, eggs, and vegetables.
In Thai cuisine, curries are meat, fish or vegetable dishes in a spiced sauce. They use local ingredients such as chili peppers, Kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, Galangal and coconut milk, and tend to be more aromatic than Indian curries as a result. Curries are often described by colour; red curries use red chilis while green curries use green chilis. Yellow curries are more similar to Indian curries, with their use of turmeric and cumin. Yellow curries in Thailand usually don’t contain potatoes except in southern style cooking, however, Thai restaurants abroad usually have them. Yellow curry is also called gaeng curry (by various spellings), of which a word-for-word translation would be “soup curry” or “curry curry”.
There are also other dishes with curry powder added.
In Vietnam, curry is called cà ri. Certain Vietnamese curry is more soup-like than Indian curry. Curry is more common in the South, such as in Saigon and the surrounding areas. Besides rice, dipping French style bread is also a common practice when eating curry goat or chicken in these regions.
[Other Southeast Asian cuisines
South East Asia, including countries like Cambodia Laos and Vietnam, also have their own versions of curry. Note that these countries have had many influences from Indian culture and cuisine due to South Asian travellers centuries before. In the cuisine of the Philippines, kare-kare is made with a peanutty sauce.