Much More to Curry than Meets the Eye

“There is more to Curry than meets the eye… Over the centuries in the East, eating and conversation have developed into cultivated arts. The aim is not to devour food but to taste it, savor it, and enjoy it because food has a stronger psychological bearing on health than most of us realize. Based on sensible beliefs more than 3,000 years ago, and over centuries of study, testing, and observation, nourishment of the body and contentment of the mind proved vital to the eating habits of the people of the Indian subcontinent. The precepts of the six rasas, or flavors developed and became part of every meal. Each flavor is believed to have its therapeutic health remedy and was prescribed in a particular proportion to the others. Since food was believed to influence behavior as well as physical well-being, these beliefs were taken seriously, evolving through time…” From my first book Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables* (1991)


*Reprinted in 2016 by iUniverse as An Author’s Guild Edition

The fame of Indian spices is older than recorded history and the cuisines of India are as mixed as its culture, racial structure, and geography. Characteristic of all Indian cooking, however, is the blending of spices. Great care is taken not only to ensure that spices enhance rather than dominate the basic flavor of the meal but also to retain their innate nutritional and therapeutic value. For centuries many of these spices and herbs have been used to stimulate the taste buds and increase the flow of saliva, relieve gas, and reduce nausea, soothe the nervous system, increase internal body heat to relieve chills, and strengthen and promote digestion, absorption, metabolism, and circulation.

For example India’s ancient yellow colored curcumin or turmeric powder, used in many curry recipes ‘is arguably the most potent anti-cancer nutrient in existence.’  Today western research suggests that curcumin regulates inflammation that “plays a major role in most chronic illnesses, including neuro-degenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases and aids in healing by ameliorating the chronic inflammation associated with a multitude of ailments and illnesses, from toothaches to cardiovascular disease.”

We are what we eat. Discover and share my dazzling repertoire of authentic, delicious, healthy, and easy-to-prepare recipes of diverse flavors with your friends from my new book Editor’s Choice India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine to stay healthy.

Sautéed Curried Okra
(Bhindi Masala)

Serves 6


3 pounds fresh okra
1/4 cup corn oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 large onion, peeled and chopped fine
8 medium cloves garlic, peeled and sliced fine
¾-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
1 fresh green chili, chopped fine
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 medium tomato, chopped fine
Salt to taste

Wash and drain the okra. Cut the ends and discard. Slice the okra into ½-inch pieces.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until they change color to a darker shade.

Add the onion, garlic, ginger, green chili, and curry leaves, and sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly, until soft and golden brown.

Add the turmeric, coriander, and cumin, stirring constantly for 3–4 minutes.

Add the okra, tomato, and salt, and mix for 1–2 minutes.

Cover and simmer for 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the ingredients from sticking, until okra is tender and golden brown.

Serve hot with rice, lamb curry, legumes, Indian salad, and mint chutney.


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