Here I am sharing some tips to making a great South African Curry. South African cooking is a little different to authentic Indian cooking, our food is a little more rustic. Everything is not ground into a smooth paste with a creamy sauce like the food at authentic restaurants. The flavours are still aromatic and delicious, it’s the method that differs. It’s not unusual to find chunky bits of onion and tomato in South African Indian curries, I remember my mum only ever chopping up her onion and tomatoes, nothing was ever pureed and I don’t ever recall her blanching her tomatoes unless she made a smooth tomato chutney (a basic sauce made with tomatoes, onion and chilli). If you want to try a great recipe then the one to try is Durban Lamb Curry
Here are a few tips to cooking a great South African curry
- The flavour base of all South African Indian curries is created by using onion and ginger/garlic paste
- Oil is the next essential ingredient in curries, it is the medium that carries the flavour and richness throughout the dish, most commonly used is ghee and vegetable oil
- Curry leaf is also a key ingredient in curries, however not always used as it’s not so easily accessible to everyone, as it is in Durban
- You then add spices, in South African cooking, masala is used, this is a convenient ready-mixed blend of spices, which comes in different strengths, mild, medium and hot, however the authentic way would be to roast and grind your own spices and add them individually to your Indian dishes. Although many people use just masala to create a curry, you can also add more spices to suit your palate
- The body of the curry, which is the rich sauce or gravy, as it’s referred to in South Africa, is formed with pureed tomatoes, the more gravy required the more tomatoes you will add to your curry
- Whole spices such as cardamom, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, star aniseed, black cardamom and cloves is often used when cooking meat dishes, not much whole spice is used when cooking vegetarian dishes
- Most vegetarian dishes are cooked using minimal spices and some of the dishes only requires chilli, onion and garlic, whereas a lot more spices are used in meat dishes
- Popular spices used are cumin, coriander, mustard, fenugreek/methi, soomph/fennel, turmeric and chilli powder
- Although garam masala is used, unlike authentic Indian cooking, it is not added at the final stages of cooking but it is added with the other spices at the start of cooking.
- To create a delicious curry it has to be cooked low and slow, a rushed curry is definitely not a great curry. Curries taste even better the next day.
Please note that these tips are from my own experience in the kitchen, others may have different views. Hope this helps you get a little more familiar with making a great South African curry. Happy Cooking!