Curry Types Defined

If you want to cook curries at home that equal or even exceed those from your local take-away or High Street Indian restaurant/Curry House, see the link "The BIR (take-away) Taste" (on the left hand menu) for a history of take-away food and here to enter the BIR (British Indian Restaurant) style of cooking section which contains base sauce recipes, methods to precook chicken, spice mixes and a large number of recipes cooked in the high street style.
Balti
MEDIUM. Cooked with fresh tomatoes, garlic, ginger and garnished with fresh
coriander and selected spices.
Balti is more a style of cooking than one particular curry, developed in Birmingham
twenty or thirty years ago. There are a number of theories on the origin of the term
Balti, some say Balti describes the cooking pot and others say it refers to a style of
cooking that evolved in Baltistan, somewhere on the North West frontier.
The word balti can be translated as "bucket". A balti pan is basically a karahi which
has the shape of a Chinese wok but with 2 small round handles on either side of the
pan instead of one long handle. In specialist "Balti Houses" the balti is a meal in itself
which contains both meat and vegetables and is eaten straight from the karahi using
Nans, Chapatis and Parathas. In standard Indian restaurants the balti is more of a stir-
fried curry containing plenty of fried green peppers and fresh coriander.
Restaurant Style Recipe

Bhuna
MEDIUM. A thoroughly garnished dish with onions, garlic, tomatoes, chillies and a
few selected spices.
Bhuna is first and foremost a cooking process where spices are gently fried in plenty
of oil to bring out their flavour. The dish "bhuna" is an extension of that process where
meat is added to the spices and then cooked in its own juices which results in deep
strong flavours but very little sauce. The restaurant bhuna is a well spiced curry with a
thick sauce. It is often garnished with fried green peppers and shredded onions.
Restaurant Style Recipe

Biryani
MILD TO MEDIUM. The main item of these dishes is fried in oil together with
specially cooked basmati rice, flavoured with saffron and served with a vegetable curry
sauce.
Biryani is not a curry at all but the curry connection comes from the mixed vegetable
curry with which it is served in most Indian restaurants.
Biryani originated in Persia and, at its simplest, was rice and meat baked together in
the oven. The meat and vegetables are pre-cooked and then mixed with the pillau rice.
The cooks to the Mogul emperors took the biryani and transformed it into a courtly
delicacy by adding aromatic spices and other exotic ingredients. Traditionally, biryanis
are baked in the oven for some time so the aromatic spices and juices from the meat
permeate the rice. In the Indian restaurant, however, all the dishes are made to order
and the poor chef has to find a way of preparing the biryani in double quick time. So
the restaurant biryani is often just pilau rice stir fried with chicken or lamb which has
been cooked as an extra dry bhuna. The restaurant biryani is usually garnished with
almonds and sultanas and is accompanied by a mixed vegetable curry to add a little
juiciness to the rice.
Restaurant Style Recipe

Dhansak
SWEET AND SOUR. A beautiful combination of spices with pineapple, lentils and
garlic.
A famous Parsee dish. Interestingly the dhan part of the name means rice and a
dhansak is traditionally served with a pulao of fried and spiced rice. An authentic
dhansak will be made with lamb and contain vegetables and many different types of
dhal (the sak in the name). The curry house dhansak is often referred to as "hot, sweet
and sour with lentils". The "hot" is chilli powder, the "sweet" is sugar and the "sour" is
lemon juice. Curry houses commonly use masoor dhal (split red lentils) but some
restaurants now use chana dhal to good effect. If it is done well the dhansak is an
excellent curry with contrasting flavours and textures.
The serving varies from restaurant to restaurant, but often expect a pineapple ring to
be included in the curry for added sweetness and contrast. The strength depends on
the chef .
Restaurant Style Recipe

Dopiaza
MEDIUM. A maximum quantity of onions, seasoned and fresh to produce a taste of
medium to hot.
Typically this is a fairly basic Indian restaurant curry, prepared as a Bhuna or Bhoona
but with the addition of extra onions probably both in the cooking and as a garnish. It
is also the same strength as a Bhuna which is medium, so not in the Madras league.
The dopiaza is a classic Indian dish dating back at least to Mogul times. The name
dopiaza broadly translates as "2 onions" or "double onions". Some traditional versions
of the dopiaza use twice the weight of onions compared to the weight of meat but a
classic Indian dopiaza is more likely to use the onions in 2 different ways, fried and
boiled, at different stages of the cooking. The restaurant version has small fried pieces
of onion in the sauce and then larger chunks of lightly cooked onion are added
towards the end of the cooking. Medium hot.
Restaurant Style Recipe

Jalfrezi
FAIRLY HOT. Cooked with onions, tomato, green chillies, pepper and coriander.
Jalfrezi is not a traditional Indian dish as such but, like the bhuna, is actually a method
of cooking. It literally means "hot-fry" but is probably better translated as "stir-fry".
The term jalfrezi entered the English language at the time of the British Raj in India.
Colonial households employed Indian cooks who would use the jalfrezi method of
cooking to heat up cold roasted meat and potatoes. But the restaurant jalfrezi is not a
version of the Anglo-Indian dish. The Indian restaurant chef uses the jalfrezi method
to stir-fry green peppers, onions and plenty of green chillies as the basis for a curry
with just a little sauce. The chillies make the jalfrezi taste very fresh but also make it
one of the hotter curries on the restaurant menu.
Restaurant Style Recipe

Korai
MEDIUM. Small pieces of lamb or chicken cooked with onions, garlic, ginger,
peppers, green chillies and fresh tomatoes.
Many Indian restaurants had a balti-style curry on their menu long before the rise in
popularity of balti cooking in the UK. They did not call the curry a balti but rather a
korai or karahi and many restaurants still carry one on their menu. Both the balti and
korai contain stir fried meat and vegetables and both take their name from the utensil
in which they are cooked. Because korai is a style of cooking rather than a traditional
recipe the curry house versions can vary considerably from restaurant to restaurant. It
can be medium or hot and will usually contain green peppers, tomatoes and onions.
Restaurant Style Recipe

Korma
VERY MILD. A delicious partnership of yoghurt, coconut cream and spices producing
a very mild but creamy texture.
Korma is the definitive mild curry on the Indian restaurant menu. It is typically
prepared with butter and thickened with single cream and coconut milk to give a very,
very mild creamy sauce. Spicing would be more subtle, and there would be more use
of aromatic spices such as cardamom, clove and cinnamon rather than the more robust
spices such as chilli, cumin, black pepper etc.
A traditional korma will have a long slow cooking. In fact, korma is not one particular
dish but rather a method of cooking similar to braising. Because korma is a cooking
method there are a wide variety of dishes that could be described as "korma". Many
kormas call for the meat to be marinated in yoghurt and then the meat plus marinade
are braised on a very low heat until all the juices condense down into a thick sauce.
The restaurant chef has to cook to order so doesn't have time for long, slow cooking.
The korma you find in Indian restaurants usually contains ground almonds, coconut
and thick cream. It is often described on restaurant menus as being "very mild" but a
good korma should not be bland.
Restaurant Style Recipe

Madras
FAIRLY HOT. A south Indian version of curry dishes having a greater proportion of
tomato purée and spices which lend a fiery taste to its richness.
The curry house Madras is a restaurant invention which started life as simply a hotted
up version of the standard restaurant curry. Because it is a restaurant invention rather
than a traditional recipe the Madras can vary considerably from one restaurant to
another. The restaurant Madras can be hot or very hot, red or brown, a hotter version
of a plain curry or quite rich in tomatoes. Mostly though it comes with plenty of sauce
and is strongly spiced. It is the standard restaurant hot curry.
Restaurant Style Recipe

Moghlai
MILD TO MEDIUM.
The Mogul dynasty ruled much of the Asian sub-continent for 3 centuries and left
behind a fabulous legacy not just in art and architecture but also in sumptuous cuisine.
There is no one Mogul style but the usual restaurant interpretation is rich and creamy.
The curry house Moghlai contains plenty of ginger, ground almonds, yoghurt and
cream. Some restaurants offer a Shahi Mogul dish which is garnished with a small
omelette flavoured with chopped coriander leaves. Mild to medium.

Passanda
MILD.
Derived from a court dish of the Mogul emperors the pasanda is traditionally made
with thinly sliced and marinated lamb fillets. It is sometimes called lamb badam
pasanda because the dish contains ground almonds, the "badam" of the title. The
restaurant pasanda is usually quite mild and contains ground almonds, cardamom
pods, puréed tomatoes and cream.
Restaurant Style Recipe

Patia
SOUR AND HOT. Extensive use of garlic, tomato purée red chilli and black pepper. A
good alternative to one who likes madras or vindaloo.
Like it's more famous cousin, dhansak, patia is a Parsee dish. A traditional Parsee patia
is made with fish cooked in a dark vinegar sauce. The restaurant patia is hot, sweet
and sour in equal measure. The restaurant patia grew popular as a starter using prawns
as the main ingredient. Many restaurants now offer the patia as a main course as well
and give you the choice of a prawn, chicken or lamb version. It is usually garnished
with fried tomato pieces.
Restaurant Style Recipe

Rogan Josh
MEDIUM. A special preparation of pimento, garlic and garnished with tomatoes.
Rogan josh is another all time favourite on the curry house menu. It was originally a
Kashmiri dish but is equally at home in the Punjab. An authentic rogan josh will be
made with lamb and may, at its most elaborate, contain dozens of spices. The
Kashmiri and Punjabi versions do differ (the Kashmiri does not traditionally contain
onions or garlic) but they are both highly spiced and share a deep red colour derived
from the liberal use of dried red Kashmiri chillies. The curry house rogan is also red
but the colour comes from red peppers and tomatoes rather than Kashmiri chillies. The
restaurant rogan is characterised by its garnish of tomato pieces and fresh coriander.
Restaurant Style Recipe

Saag
MEDIUM HOT.
Saag gosht is a classic curry traditionally made with spinach and lamb. Saag is, strictly
speaking, a general term for tender green leaves such as spinach, mustard greens and
fresh fenugreek leaves. If you were talking about spinach on its own it would be
called palak. Many restaurants these days will offer a chicken or a prawn alternative to
lamb and so the dish will show on the menu as just "saag" or "palak" omitting the
gosht (lamb) from the name altogether. The saag is usually served medium hot and is
made in the bhuna style.
Restaurant Style Recipe

Tikka
Tikka is prepared in a similar way to a Tandoori dish. However it is usually a piece of
fillet meat, chicken or fish that is cooked on a skewer, whereas Tandoori dishes are
usually a whole portion of meat such as a Chicken quarter or half.

Tikka Masala
MEDIUM. Onion, peppers, fresh tomatoes, coriander fried together with selected
spices and herbs to produce a dry dish.
Chicken tikka masala is the all time most popular dish on the Indian restaurant menu
and what the restaurant diner really needs to know is whether the restaurant is
providing a good example of the dish. And what is a good example? Well, the chicken
tikka pieces should be aromatic and slightly smoky from the tandoor. The masala
sauce should be well spiced but not hot, rich and creamy and have a hint of coconut.
Tikka masala usually has a deep red colour, gained from the use of artificial food
colourings.
The Tikka Massala curry is made with Tikka meat. That is, meat that has been
marinated and cooked on skewers in a Tandoor before being used in the curry
preparation. The Massala is the curry sauce that the Tikka is served in. It is a creamy
mild and colourful dish, often appearing day-glow red due to the addition of the red
food colouring (not recommended) either in the Tikka process or in the Massala or
both. It is prepared in the same way as a basic curry dish but with the addition of
possibly yoghurt and just before serving, single cream.
Restaurant Style Recipe

Vindaloo
VERY HOT. A south Indian dish widely known for its rich hot taste. Black pepper,
lemon, garlic and red chilli and a few strong spices.
The vindaloo was originally a Portuguese dish which took its name from the 2 main
ingredients which were "vinho", wine/wine vinegar, and "alhos", garlic. Over time it
was spiced up, hotted up and otherwise changed by the indigenous peoples of the ex-
Portuguese colony of Goa. Not many restaurants produce an authentic Goan vindaloo
not least because the pork used by Christian Goans in their recipe would not be
acceptable to Muslim chefs. In some restaurants the vindaloo is just a pumped-up
Madras i.e. the same recipe but with lots more chilli powder. Other restaurants have
interpreted the "aloo" part of the name as meaning potato and introduced diced potato
to a hot standard curry with added lemon juice for tartness and black pepper for extra
pungency.
Restaurant Style Recipe

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