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How do I Make a Simple Indian Curry?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 17, 2024
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Indian curries are traditional dishes from India with almost endless variations. The concoction of vegetables or meat and spices is flavorful and unusual, like a highly spiced stew or thick gravy. Despite the complicated ingredients, a simple curry is easy to make and is sure to be a crowd pleaser far different than the usual lunch and dinner staples.

For a basic curry, choose what you want to be the main component of the dish. For an extremely fast version, use a bag or two of frozen mixed vegetables or stir-fry mix. Chicken, lamb, and fish are all common ingredients, as are vegetables like potatoes, peas, garbanzo beans, spinach, and okra. Choose your favorite vegetables and meat for the dish; the flavors of the curry will blend well with most basic ingredients.

A simple Indian curry will require small amounts of some spices you may not have readily available, so be prepared to visit a grocery store with bulk spices or an Indian food store. Most curries use a variety of spices, including turmeric, coriander, cumin, curry powder, and a spice blend called garam masala. You may also want to add fresh ginger and garlic, and a few hot chilies.

To make the dish, heat oil in a large wok or skillet. Add two or three chopped onions and stir with cumin and ginger until soft and translucent. Throw in your garlic and chilies, adding a pinch of each spice and stirring until the garlic begins to brown. At this point, add a couple of medium sized tomatoes that have been chopped and seasoned. It is important to get most of the tomato liquid out before you add them, as it will water down the sauce. Once this mixture has thickened, add your vegetables or meat ingredients and continue to stir until the desired temperature and thickness is reached.

If your curry is too watery, increase the heat slightly and allow it to continue cooking, as more water will evaporate the longer you allow it to cook. On the other hand, if the sauce is too thick, add another tomato, and the additional moisture will help even out the sauce. Adding additional tomatoes can also help if you have made the curry too spicy, as the water and mild flavor will help balance out the heat of the dish.

You can easily make the sauce ahead of time and store it in the freezer, using an airtight container. Simply add everything except the final vegetables and meat, and you will have an all-purpose mixture to use at a moments notice. As you experiment more with Indian curry, you will begin to understand the amounts and interdependence of ingredients, and learn to adjust flavors for your preferences.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseGeek. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By amypollick — On Aug 15, 2011

If there is an Indian grocery store in your area, you can probably pick up a pre-made curry spice blend, and then you can tweak it to suit your tastes.

My curry is a little different, in that I start with a white sauce, and add a curry blend, onions, garlic and other spices. It makes a thicker, more gravy-like sauce that comes together fairly quickly. It's not traditional, I realize, but it is a good way to introduce curry to someone who hasn't experienced it before. I've been known to eat just the sauce and rice, with no meat. Because of the carb count, I don't do it much anymore, but it is tasty stuff. I'll eat curry at a restaurant and just go easy on the rice. Love that stuff. I was a convert from the first bite.

By anon193468 — On Jul 05, 2011

how dare you call beef dirty meat? You must respect all kinds of cultures before you post this. In case you didn't know, a lot of Indians eat beef.

By anon61083 — On Jan 18, 2010

re: rltomkinson: The smaller the chilly, the hotter it is. You can usually buy them from asian grocery stores.

If you're using chilli powder, then any red chilli powder will do. The heat from chilli powder is a sharp heat, whereas the heat from green chilli is a more rounded heat. I prefer the green chilli in my Indian cooking.

Popular brands of chilli powder include in the UK: TRS, Rajah, East End, Natco.

You may be able to buy these online. Another thing is, chilli plants are very easy to grow. If you want the hottest chilli plant, there's a place in UK that sells Dorset Naga chilli seeds, but they are relatively expensive. I'm sure they will grow in the USA. --Suky B.

By rltomkinson — On Nov 29, 2009

Can you tell me what type of chillies your mother used? Most american recipes for Indian foods don't mention chillies at all, or just say chillies, or jalapenos. I like my curry very hot.

When I lived in the UK, i could go into a restaurant and ask for the hottest curry and it would always be hot enough, sometimes too hot. But, now that I am back in the states, the hottest level is no more than medium hot. So, I would like to learn to make my own.

But I cannot find any information on what type of chillies, or chilli powder, Indians actually use.

By anon19562 — On Oct 14, 2008

Ive just read your quick indian curry, but i have to say, my stepmother is from India and she cooks the best curry. She has showed me the way to cook it and it is nothing like what you have said. Very complicated and you have to cook the meat 1/3 and then add spices, with using your traditional Curry Leaves. I have been trying to buy a curry tree for a long time as you have never tasted a curry until you try this one. I will share it with you and try it for yourself. Ingredients are - crushed onion garlic and ginger, chillies or powder, cummin powder, clove powder, cinamon stick, curry leaves- mature only, fresh corriander, garam masala, tumeric powder- small amount, salt, Meat- not beef as it is a dirty meat in indias terms, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, tomato, potato, greek style yogurt, extra diced onion. Wash meat in boiling hot water and drain well cook 1/3 slowly add spices, except coriander cook well stirring occasionally add veges and yogurt and coriander simmer gently until cooked add boiling water to make textured gravy add more salt and chillies for desired taste. But I have to say I got shown how to make this curry and it is not measured we go by smell and taste. Enjoy. I also got shown how to make Roti, the bought one from the supermarket just doesn't compare a mixture of plain flour melted butter salt and cooled boiling water, and mix it with your hands roll out 1mm thin and cook in a very hot frypan turn when cooked on one side. I use my fingers to turn the roti as it is the way I was shown Hope you enjoy

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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