Or rather: when is a curried vegetable not a curry?
It All Depends Where You Are
The word ‘curry’ as it is used in English comes from the Tamil (a state in Southern India) work ‘kari, meaning sauce.
What English speakers call a curry could be a kadhi, bhaji, subzi, korma, makhni, wat, or vindaloo depending on what part of the world (or even just India) you find yourself in.
While much of western culture has come to regard any Indian-spiced dish as a curry, there is a whole world of different preparations to discover.
How Wet is Your Curry?
I hope that header doesn’t get the google bots thinking this post isn’t safe search appropriate.
But seriously, is your dish dry or liquidy? The original Tamilian meaning of kari is what still carries weight in India.
In northern India, curry only refers to a saucy dish. It can include meat, lentils or vegetables with gravy, but it need to have some sort of liquid to be a true ‘curry.’ A dry dish is called a subzi.
A Faster, Friendlier Indian Dish
Gravy-based Northern Indian dishes are notoriously a pain in the a** to prepare.
Many first or second generation Indians living in the States don’t take the time to make traditional curries. First you fry whole spices, then you fry garlic, then onions, then tomatoes. You add ground spices. Finally you add the main ingredient, but then you need to add water, and wait for thirty minutes, then add more spices and yogurt.
Wow, that was exhausting just to type! Thankfully, a dry dish like green beans or the potatoes below is an absolute wiz to prepare.
Try it out; it’s like insta-Indian food compared to the complicated gravy preparations. And let me know if you have any questions!
Aloo Subzi (Curried Potatoes) Recipe
Prep time: 30 mins
Serves: 6-8 (as a side)
- 4 medium sized* potatoes
- canola or vegetable oil
- mustard seeds
- cumin seeds
- fennel seeds
- chili powder
- cilantro leaves
- green finger chillies
Note*: the round, 2 inch diameter ones, not the long ones
- Fill a medium sized pot with enough water to cover your potatoes generously. Remove the potatoes, cover the pot, and set of high heat.
- When the water begins to boil, add salt and the potatoes.
- Roughly chop a handful of cilantro and two green chillies.
- After fifteen minutes, pierce a potato with a fork. It if goes in easily, the potatoes are done. If there is resistance, let the potatoes cook for another five minutes and check again.
- When the potatoes are ready, drain the cooking water and run them under cool water for a minute. If the skin peels off on its own, that is fine.
- Add two tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil to a large frying pan and set over medium-low heat.
- Using a fork or a potato masher, roughly mash the potatoes.
- Add a half teaspoon each cumin, fennel, and mustard seeds to the oil.
- Once the seeds begin to pop, add the potatoes and turn off the heat.
- Add a half teaspoon each chili powder and turmeric a teaspoon of coriander and mix thoroughly. Blend in the cilantro and green chillies and serve warm.