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Curry Madness: Homemade Sauce

I make curry quite a lot, because it’s fast, flexible, tasty. Until today, I have relied upon prepared sauce concentrate to make it. It’s cheap and convenient, but every dish tastes the same, give or take a certain degree of intensity.

Curry paste is not complex – blend some ground spices into a pool of chili oil. My boyfriend had gifted me some spice powder, so I thought I’d try to make curry from scratch.

I wasn’t particular about authenticity, but I wanted the curry to feature my favorite flavors. I chopped a handful of fresh ginger and garlic, and plucked a handful of fresh basil leaves. The spice melange composed mostly of cumin, coriander, cardamom, and chili flakes.

These things should blend in chili oil to make a thick paste, which you dilute with water to simmer bite-sized food chunks. I selected firm tofu for it’s neutral flavor, because I really wanted to see how my sauce would hold up on its own.

I had some issues with proportion of paste. At first, I added way too much to the simmering pot, and the texture was unpalatably gritty. I had to act fast, ladling out bubbling curry water while adding clean water. As a rule, I think three tablespoons of paste is appropriate for two capsicum-dependent diners.

I should note that the amount of water needs not be an exact and arbitrary volume. The role of the water is to regulate the cooking temperature and hydrate the spices to avoid burning. Most of the water eventually cooks out.

The last step involved what I call an “unctuous fluid”, usually yogurt, coconut milk, tomato sauce, cream, or peanut butter. The unctuous fluid brings a pleasant texture to the party, and helps the spices cling to the food.

When it comes to unctuous fluids, feel free to mix them. For example, my tofu curry was mostly coconut milk, but I found the taste to be lacking. Despite the ample spice, the underlying flavor was flat. I added a couple ounces of tomato sauce, knowing it’s acidic fruitiness loves the basil. The overall dish instantly snapped to life with full-bodied goodness. Always follow your hunches – just keep a fire extinguisher and your favorite takeout number ready.

Curry is usually accompanied by grain. I like classic Indian staples, like long-grained rice and flat bread, but there are more interesting companions, like quinoa and udon noodles. I am a big fan of curry sandwiches.