Curry dishes are entirely dependent on the curry. If you chose a different box/bottle/can than I, your curry will inevitably be different. While the term ‘curry’ refers to a particular plant, the leaves of which are used to make said spice, in the Western world it also refers to just about any blend of spices from the East. Often they are described by location: Thai curry, Indian curry, Chinese curry, etc. But really, do you think all of India eats only one blend of spices? Admittedly, I’ve never been to India, but visits to my local Indian markets and restaurants have clearly shown this to be inaccurate.
The best bet with curry is to mostly follow the directions on the package to figure out what proteins and veggies to use. I used an Indian curry specifically designated for prawns. The directions told me to use coconut milk. They told me other things about how to make the curry, but I ignored that part.
There are so many variations, it’s hard to give advice about how to makes yours. Here’s a couple fundamentals:
- If you use a powder, it doesn’t have oil in it, so you’ll need oil the pan before adding protein/veggies. Then add powder, then add a bit broth or water to get a curry, rather than a stir fry. If you want a thicker curry (this works for anything, actually) mix a little corn starch or flour in a bowl with a little broth/water until it’s completely dissolved, then stir into the curry. Maybe 2 tsp flour to 2tsp water. You can repeat this until desired consistency is achieved- when the dish cools, it will thicken more, though, so be a little conservative.
- If you use a paste, there’s almost certainly oil in it (check the label). In this case, toss the paste in a pan over low heat, add a little water/broth (maybe 1/4 cup) and stir until the paste dissolves. Then add ingredients, thicken as described above if necessary (or add more liquid for more gravy).
- Serve with something like brown rice to sop up the gravy. Don’t take the time to cook rice yourself- it comes in microwavable in 1minute packages. Whole wheat naan or pita works well, too, and if you have spicy curry plain yogurt is especially nice to temper the burn. I always have full-fat Greek style yogurt on hand.
My curry went something like this: Remember to pull coconut milk out of freezer in the morning to thaw.[fast forward to evening]. Remove forgot-to-thaw seafood from freezer and put enough for dinner in ziploc bag.
I used some big shrimp and a little shimp/bay scallop/calamari ring blend from Trader Joe’s. ‘Enough for dinner’ is slightly deceiving as they’ll cook down- over estimate a little. Ensure bag is sealed and add to bowl of room temp water; find something heavy to weigh down seafood so it’s completely immersed (if you remember in the morning, do the same with cold water, and put back in fridge for thawing). [fast forward about 1/2 hr].
Add a drizzle of olive to pan over medium heat; saute 2 handfuls of chopped red onions (bought pre-chopped, of course) for a couple minutes. Chop 1 red bell pepper while doing the hokey pokey. [yes, this is how I did it, but I'm a super hero; you need not do the hokey pokey unless it is demanded of you also, and yellow or orange bell peppers are fine].
Mix into the onions generous amounts of curry seasoning- mine is a very dry paste, and not too spicy. But also, I’ll be adding coconut milk which dilutes the flavor, and we all like lots of flavor around here. Immediately add coconut milk. I poured straight out of the ziploc it was in until it looked like the right amount of gravy, probably about 1/2 cup. Mix until curry is thoroughly dissolved/blended. I used a whisk (silicone)- don’t use metal whisks on non-stick pans.
Add seafood. If your seafood is not entirely thawed (like mine) try to add the largest pieces first, and break any chunks of ice off with your hands. Cover. Cook about 2 minutes. Stir. Add red peppers. Stir. Cover and cook about 2 more minutes. Look at the largest pieces of shrimp- if they’re done, serve; else cover, cook, repeat until they are.
Shrimp are easy to overcook- as are scallops and calamari- but shrimp also tell you when they’re done so they can be your canary in the coal mine of seafood curry. They must be pink and not see-through on all sides, but as soon as they are, try to stop cooking- remove from heat and serve ASAP.
If you want to add something green, chop up some spinach or kahl and throw in with the red peppers. I meant to, and have kahl in the fridge for just this sort of thing, but forgot.