Want to make a great curry without looking at a single recipe? Below is a list of tips and tricks along with everything you need to know about the art of curry making.
The base of the curry
To make a curry, first you need to decide on what you are going to use as the base or body of the curry. In Maldivian cooking, it’s usually coconut milk. The base is what holds the flavours of everything else you put into your curry. It’s also what makes a curry thick and creamy or thin and runny. Apart from coconut milk, pureed tomatoes, yogurt and cream can also be used as curry bases.
Give the onions some time
Pay attention to slicing onions evenly. Otherwise you’ll have some pieces turning brown while the others are yet to be cooked. Don’t turn up the heat to make the onions cook faster, they'll just burn. Let the flavour be gently released into the oil that you are using to sauté them. If you want a lighter curry, cook the onions until they become soft and translucent. If you want a richer curry cook the onions until they begin to brown.
Don’t let the garlic burn
You can sauté ingredients such as cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, curry leaves and raanbaa leaves at the same time as your onions. However, garlic tends to burn easily, so add the garlic only when the onions are almost done. And also, be prepared to move quickly to the next step as soon as you add the garlic. If you burn the garlic, your curry will have a bitter taste, so your aim should be to get them to soften.
The thing about githeyo mirus and other fresh chillies
When adding fresh chillies such as the githeyo mirus (scotch bonnet pepper) to a curry, timing does matter. If you want the heat to be milder, you have to add the chilli earlier in the cooking process to allow it to release most of its heat, while if you want it to be really hot, just add it in the later stages.
A tip we got from old Maldivian cookbooks: sauté onions in coconut milk and ghee
We’ve seen numerous recipes in old Maldivian cookbooks such as Mohamed Amin’s Karuna Aai Nulaa Kekkun and Zareena Ibrahim Didi’s Dhivehi Kaanaa 1, where the onions, garlic, ginger and other aromatic ingredients are sautéed in a mixture of ghee and thick coconut milk. We think the onions taste richer and creamier when cooked this way.
Another Tip we got from old Maldivian cookbooks: flavour the thick coconut milk
In Maldivian curry making, we use thin coconut milk and thick coconut milk. The thick coconut milk is added right at the end to make the curry creamier. Add some of the sautéed onion mixture to the thick coconut milk and keep it covered until you have to put it into the curry. It really does make the curry more flavourful.
Know your spices
In order for you to make a great curry, you need to understand the taste and properties of the usual spices such as cumin, coriander and fennel. Cumin is musky, fennel has a touch of sweetness, and coriander in a bit tangy. Curries taste best if you use whole spices instead of store bought packet ones. For best results first heat the spices on a dry pan until they sizzle and pop, then, if you don’t have a motar and pestle, grind them in the blender. If you are using packet spice mixtures, just make sure they are reasonably fresh by checking the production date on the label. Also, if you are unsure about how much spice to add to a curry, being generous with the spices is the way to go, except for chilli powders, which you’ll need to add according to your preferred heat level and turmeric, which will lend a bitter taste if you add too much.
Taste as you cook
In order for you to make a curry that you really like, it’s important that you taste it and make adjustments throughout the latter parts of the cooking process. If you find the curry to be too salty, add some lime, if it’s too sour, add some sugar. Sugar can also help make a hot curry milder. When you add things, just add them a little at a time.
Curries don’t take hours to cook, but it’s important that you give it time, so that the flavours can really come together and also so that any meats and hard vegetables you use have time to cook thoroughly. Aim for a gentle simmer, and just enjoy the process.
Did this get you in a curry cooking mood? Below are some great curry recipes we have here on Lonumedhu.
You might also enjoy having a look at the top 10 recipes on Lonumedhu.