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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Curry Powders

Image by Thomas Steiner
A relic of the British colonization of India, Curry Powders represent an attempt by the colonizers to copy something of the colonized: When they began "going native," the British governors of India discovered what they began to call "curry," a wide variety of dishes flavored with combinations of spices—masala—that varied from area to area, and often from house to house. "Curries" were more of a category of foods, sort of a soup or stew, but the British found the spicing to be what mattered, and therefore began to mimic the spicing of these dishes by creating "Curry Powder" mixtures that have become widely known. They homogenize the flavor of curry, and as with all spices, they sit on shelves and deteriorate quickly in quality.

So what better way to combine the do-it-yourself ethos of steampunk with the multinational/integrational/fusion approach that characterizes the genre, and that with a culinary item that is unique and wonderful?

Curry powders, as said, vary greatly from instance to instance. So, it should be no surprise that the recipes you find in a quick search of the internet vary greatly as well.

The upshot of all of the recipes below is that there are some standby ingredients that seem to be in every curry powder blend: coriander, cumin, turmeric, and pepper of some variety. Additional spices, like fenugreek, mustard, cinnamon, asafetida, and so on seem more varied in their prominence, and although they definitely add additional flavors, are not necessarily deal-breakers when it comes to creating a curry blend.

Before I adjourn to recipes, a question to all of you: Do any of you make your own curry powder blends? What spices do you use, if you do?

The internet is a wonderful resource. Let's take a quick sampling, shall we?
Recipe By: Aliza Green


Sambar Podi
3 tablespoons (45 ml) ground coriander
3 tablespoons besan (45 ml) chickpea flour
1 tablespoon (15 ml) ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 ml) coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon
(5 ml) amchur powder
1 teaspoon
(5 ml) dry mustard
1 teaspoon
(5 ml) hot red chile powder
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) turmeric
8 crumbled dried curry leaves
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) asafetida

Combine and mix well.

Curry Powder
5 tablespoons (75 ml) ground coriander seeds
2 tablespoons (30 ml) ground cumin seeds
1 tablespoon (15 ml) ground turmeric
2 teaspoons (10 ml) ground ginger
2 teaspoons (10 ml) dry mustard
2 teaspoons (10 ml) ground fenugreek seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 ml) ground black pepper
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon
(2.5 ml) ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon
(2.5 ml) ground chile peppers

1. Toast coriander, cumin, and fenugreek seeds in a sauté pan until they begin to smell very fragrant. Grind.

2. Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Poudre de Colombo
1/4 cup (60 ml) white rice
1/4 cup (60 ml) cumin seeds
1/4 cup (60 ml) coriander seeds
1 tablespoon (15 ml) black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon (15 ml) black peppercorns
1 tablespoon (15 ml) fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon (5 ml) whole cloves
2 teaspoons (10 ml) turmeric

1.  Toast white rice in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking frequently, until light brown, about 5 minutes. Remove and cool. In the same skillet, toast cumin seeds; coriander seeds, black mustard seeds, black peppercorns, fenugreek seeds, and whole cloves until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Cool the spices, combine with the rice, and grind to a fine powder. Stir in turmeric. Makes about 1 cup.

Curry Powder Blend
Recipe By: Good Eats
Yield: about 1/2 cup


2 tablespoons (30 ml) whole cumin seeds, toasted
2 tablespoons (30 ml) whole cardamom seeds, toasted
2 tablespoons (30 ml) whole coriander seeds, toasted
1/4 cup
(60 ml) ground turmeric
1 tablespoon (15 ml) dry mustard
1 teaspoon (5 ml) cayenne


Place all ingredients in a container with an airtight lid. Shake to combine. Store in a cool dry place for up to 6 months. When ready to use, grind and add to dishes according to taste.

Homemade Curry Powder
Serving Size: 10
Yield: 1/4 cup


4 1/2 tsp. (22.5 ml) ground coriander
2 tsp. (10 ml) ground turmeric
1 1/4 tsp. (6.25 ml) cumin
1 tsp. (5 ml) whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. (5 ml) red pepper flake
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml) whole cardamom seeds
1/2 inch (1.25 cm) cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp. (1.25 ml) whole cloves
1/4 tsp. (1.25 ml) ground ginger


Mix all ingredients in a blender for 2 to 3 minutes until finely powdered.
Store in airtight container in a dark place.

Mild Curry Powder
Recipe By: Allrecipes.com
Serving Size: 20


2 tablespoons (30 ml) ground cumin
2 tablespoons
(30 ml) ground coriander
2 teaspoons (10 ml) ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon
(2.5 ml) mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon
(2.5 ml) ground ginger


1. In a blender or food processor, combine cumin, coriander, turmeric, red pepper flakes, mustard seed, and ginger. Process to a fine powder. Store in an airtight container.


  1. Point of interest - Curry was actually ordained as the National Dish of Britain for 2008. Tells you how far they've come. EVERYTHING is curry in the UK, which results it some very interesting cross-culture dishes being made.

  2. That's some cultural appropriation, right there.

  3. Hey, curry and chips for the win!
    I've always thought it was interesting that blended spices end up being so homogeneous when adopted by other cultures. Chinese five-spice is another example of that.
    I'm not quite up to making my own curry powder, though I am expanding what curry blends I use. I do make my own taco/burrito seasoning now, so hope to keep improving!
    (my captcha is "gratones"...any relation to gratin?)

  4. As someone who maintains a Hindi-ish kitchen; I would say that when making your masala powders to spice curries - leave out the ginger and add it into the recipe at cooking. Trust me. Old ginger powder is the source of the curry of hell hot that just will not be soothed.

  5. Duly noted, Chy—it's often remarked that true Indian cooking adds spices in specific orders, and that the spices are added with varying quantities based on experience and time and smell. Fascinating stuff, and a wonderful approach to cooking.


Your opinions and comments always are welcomed, but do be civil... this isn't a kitchen, after all.