I’m not one who usually professes ignorance, however in one specific area I not only acknowledge my lack of guile, but rather I actively celebrate it.
I am a curry novice.
That’s not to say that I don’t love curry, in fact I really do. But I came to realise many years ago that there’s a good and a bad side to knowledge, and it’s important to know which way the cookie is likely to crumble. Learning will expand your mind and broaden your horizons, but once understood a thing may not be un-learned.
In my eyes, the beauty of curry lies in its mystery. I trained as a pastry chef, and only came to the hot kitchen late in my career. When I finally found myself surrounded my meats and fish rather than flours and sugars, it was in French and Italian restaurants where curry was unheard of. I just never really had a chance to learn.
And so each bite of a perfect ‘jalfrezi’ or ‘massaman’ has been like a glimpse of fleeting beauty. Veiled from me curry is more tempting and intoxicating precisely because I am not sure how it is done.
Men are most fascinated by that which we cannot understand.
Curry is a general term that describes a huge range of dishes from all over Asia and beyond. The name originated in the Tamil language and simply means ‘sauce’. Hence a curry can be any concoction that has a saucy component. From the mild and sweet ‘korma’ to the passionately fragrant ‘rendang’. And don’t forget the ‘vindaloo’, although that’s actually a Portuguese-inspired dish whose name derives from ‘vinha d’alhos’ meaning ‘with wine vinegar and garlic’.
And so it was that recently I decided to deflower myself, and enter the world of curry. I pounded and mixed, stirred and grinded, until I came to understand something that went far beyond the process of how the recipe could be made. Indeed this special knowledge will never be un-learned.
I learned that the only thing more addictive than a perfectly mysterious curry, is a perfect curry made with my own hands. The real mystery is why I waited so long to try!!
Chicken and chickpea curry