Curry has become a catchall phrase for any Indian meat, vegetable or legume dish in a sauce. But that’s a distortion. In fact, it is plain wrong.

It is not a monolithic dish. Nor does it tumble in the predefined or conventional classification. It can be saucy or bone-dry. It can be sassy and fiery sizzling or heady with cardamom and cinnamon or mild when seasoned with only salt and pepper.

All that comes by way of clearly in “Vegetarian Flavors With Alamelu” (Hippocrene Guides November 2020) by Alamelu Vairavan.

“Curry is a generic expression employed in the context of Indian dishes,” the cookbook creator and PBS Tv set host says. “But not all Indian dishes should be labeled as curries.”

To me, a curry normally has a distinct context and doubles down on taste.

So when a person can make a blanket statement of possibly loving or hating curry, it leaves me befuddled as to which curry the man or woman is referring to. Is it the creamy Mughlai-fashion chicken with almonds and raisins, or is it the dry pepper rooster fry? Is it the tomato sauce-centered egg curry or the drier egg curry with green bell peppers and garam masala? Is it the stir-fried carrot curry flecked with mustard seeds and lentils or the sauteed inexperienced beans seasoned with cumin seeds and garnished with coconut? Or is it the korma, vindaloo or gosht?

It is akin to declaring, “I love” or “I hate” flatbread. The context will get missing if the flatbread is not specified as to whether or not it is a tortilla, naan, lavash, pita or roti.

The term, whose roots can be traced to Southern India, has traveled much and large, turning up in Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Kenya, South Africa and the Caribbean. In the course of the colonization of India, the British appropriated curry from the Tamil phrase kari, which means a dry vegetable dish or meat in a sauce flavored with spices. It also could have been a reference to the curry leaf, which arrives from the murraya koenigii plant and is made use of as a taste enhancer.

But that seems to have gotten dropped in translation.

In some instances, even when meat, vegetable and legume dishes have been specified names they are specified as curries simply just for the reason that of their origin. So names like chana masala (chickpeas with spices), keema (spiced floor meat) and sodhi (greens cooked in coconut milk with spices and chilies) simply just drop by the wayside.

Vairavan showcases why particular names matter when a delicacies offers a large variety of alternatives like kootu, korma and poriyal in this, her seventh cookbook.

The lentil-centered sauce is what defines the homey kootu. Masoor dal (purple lentils) or moong dal (split yellow lentils) are cooked and then mixed with greens like cabbage, cauliflower and environmentally friendly beans.

Perfumed with cinnamon, fennel seeds, garlic and ginger, a good deal additional substances go into kormas. The creator phone calls for almonds or cashews to be blended with unsweetened coconut and additional to greens like potatoes and mushrooms.

Poriyal is in essence any stir-fried vegetable cooked with a smaller amount of money of oil. Her kale, cabbage and sweet potato poriyals all are tossed with unsweetened shredded coconut just just before the warmth is turned off.

When it is just one of her creations, the vegetable gets no suffix and is termed by what it features. Asparagus with shallots and garlic is flavored with chutney powder and shredded coconut. Black-eyed peas masala is cooked with mustard seeds, urad dal (white lentils) and sambhar powder.

Vairavan was born in Chettinad, a location in Southern India known for its piquant delicacies. When she moved to Milwaukee immediately after finding married, she didn’t know a factor about cooking. So she went to stay with her aunt and uncle in New York to find out the fundamental principles like chopping vegetables and cooking rice from their cook, Natesan, who also hailed from Chettinad.

One particular of his important instructions was about seasoning dishes with mustard seeds and urad dal. The oil experienced to be scorching but not smoking incredibly hot prior to they ended up additional. And it is a line she repeats in the course of the ebook.

Her recipes are quick to abide by and small, and she did it to erase an additional distortion.

“Indian cooking is not all laborious or tough,” she states.


Cooked in an almond-coconut sauce with cumin and fennel seeds, the potatoes and peas really don’t involve considerably time to embrace the great fragrance. Serve with flatbreads like roti or naan.

16 entire almonds, soaked in incredibly hot h2o for 10 minutes

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 refreshing eco-friendly chili peppers

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, divided

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, divided

2 thick slices new ginger

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 to 4 curry leaves, optional

1 bay leaf

2 to 4 ( 1/2 -inch-very long) slivers cinnamon sticks

1 cup coarsely chopped onions

2 cups chopped tomatoes, divided

2 cups peeled and cubed Idaho potatoes (about 1-inch cubes)

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/4 cup chopped fresh new cilantro leaves

In a cup, soak whole almonds in warm drinking water for 10 minutes. Clear away their pores and skin.

In a blender, include coconut, environmentally friendly chilies, almonds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, ginger and 2 cups of very hot drinking water. Grind into a sleek paste.

Increase oil and butter into a large-bottomed saucepan more than medium heat. When the oil is hot and butter melted, incorporate curry leaves, bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, remaining 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds. Stir-fry for a number of minutes, until eventually it is aromatic and seeds brown..

Add onions and 1 cup of tomatoes, and stir-fry for a handful of minutes.

Insert potatoes and turmeric, and stir effectively for 1 moment. Add curry powder and stir effectively with the potatoes for a few of minutes.

Add the coconut spice paste together with salt and 2 cups of warm h2o and mix totally.

When the combination starts to boil, increase the remaining 1 cup of chopped tomatoes and peas. Cook in excess of medium warmth until eventually the potatoes are tender.

Garnish with cilantro.

Serves 4.


It’s finest to continue to keep all the greens reduce and ready to go prior to you get started cooking simply because matters come together quickly when the mustard seeds pop and white lentils change golden. Keep an eye on the complete red chili as it can blacken rather rapidly. The kootu goes nicely with cooked plain rice.

3/4 cup masoor dal (crimson lentils) or moong dal (split yellow lentils)

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, divided

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon urad dal

1 total dried pink chili

2 or 3 curry leaves, optional

1/2 cup chopped onions

1 medium eco-friendly chili pepper, minced

1 tablespoon minced contemporary ginger

2 cups coarsely shredded cabbage

1 cup diced carrots

1 teaspoon floor cumin

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Bring 3 cups of h2o to a boil in a deep saucepan. Include masoor dal and 1/4 teaspoon turmeric.

Reduce warmth to medium and prepare dinner dal, uncovered, till it gets delicate and tender, about 20 minutes. (If most of the drinking water evaporates just before the dal will become smooth, incorporate an further cup.) Established aside.

Warmth oil in a saucepan in excess of medium warmth. When oil is very hot but not smoking cigarettes, insert the mustard seeds and urad dal.

Include and prepare dinner until finally mustard seeds pop and urad dal is golden brown. Quickly include the full chili and curry leaves,

Increase onions, minced environmentally friendly chili and ginger. Stir effectively. Insert cabbage and carrots, and stir-fry about 2 minutes.

Increase remaining 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, floor cumin and salt stir perfectly.

Instantly add cooked dal and about 1 cup of drinking water. Go over and cook more than medium warmth for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring often, right up until the cabbage and carrots are cooked and tender. Taste and increase far more salt if wanted.

Serves 4.


Substitutions are the secret right here. Really don’t fret if you really don’t have black mustard seeds and urad dal. They can be changed with cumin seeds. Rather of chutney powder, you can use 1/2 teaspoon of floor cumin. And unsweetened shredded coconut can stand in for grated contemporary coconut.

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon urad dal

2 shallots, peeled and sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and diced (about 2 cups)

1/2 teaspoon chutney powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 tablespoon grated fresh new coconut

Heat oil in a skillet about medium warmth. When the oil is sizzling but not using tobacco, increase mustard seeds and urad dal.

Don’t stir right up until mustard seeds pop and urad dal turns golden.

Add chopped shallots and garlic. Stir and prepare dinner for 2 minutes. Include asparagus and stir, and prepare dinner for 4 minutes.

Include chutney powder, salt and coconut. Lessen warmth to medium-minimal and stir for 5 extra minutes.

Serves 4.

Adapted from “Vegetarian Flavors With Alamelu” by Alamelu Vairavan