Curry is probably one of the most complex cuisine in the world. It usually comprises of various spices and condiments that are usually difficult to find or uneconomical to purchase. In this constantly updated post, I would like to introduce substitutes of each spices and condiments. Feel free to leave a comment if there are spices substitutes that you would like to know.
Top seven spices that define curry:
Perhaps the most prominent and important spices of all in a bowl of curry. Cumin gives a strong, earthy aroma and is known to help in weight loss by burning off excess fat. Dishes like the Chicken Tikki Masala will be feeling a little lacking without the strong guy in it.
Feasible substitutes: Ground coriander, curry powder, and interestingly taco seasoning.
This bright yellow powder is like one of the bad boys in the kitchen. Caught some of them on your cloth and the stain would never go away. It has a mild aroma with a little bitter taste. It act as a dye and give your favourite curry its yellow colour. It is one of the essential ingredients in Kapitan Chicken (Captain’s curry).
Feasible substitutes: Saffron (pricey!), cumin and curry powder.
(3) Ground corianderThe seeds and leaves of a coriander carries different aroma and serve different purposes. Unlike its refreshing, lime-like leaves counterparts, the ground coriander carried a sweet taste and is commonly use together with other spices like the cumin and cinnamon.
Feasible substitutes: Cumin, garam masala and curry powder.
(4) GingerAhh…good old ginger. I don’t think this rhizome plant needs any more clarification. Ginger is the staple spice in a curry. This is the easiest available spice in this list and could be obtained in almost all supermarkets. However, if you need a replacement for this wonder spice (e.g. due to allergy), it is in the next line.
Feasible substitutes: Ground ginger, ground cinnamon, cardamom and curry powder.
(5) CardamomI read the Economic Times this morning about a 16 % drop in price of cardamom and instantly came up with the idea of writing this post. The cardamom has an intense, yet subtle sweetness taste. Cardamoms are slightly difficult to find compared to the other spices listed here. However, fear not, for there is a great replacement for it.
Feasible substitutes: For each tsp of cardamoms, replace them with half tsp of cinnamon powder and cloves each. Ginger or nutmeg would also work.
(6) Red chilli powderAnother relatively easy-to-find spice. Chilli, as it sounds, are red, hot and spicy. Chilli powder is used to provide heat and also give a reddish, delicious-looking colour to the curry. There are a lot of types of chilli powder out there with different level of spiciness, so be sure to examine with the hotness before you hammer them all into your cooking pot!
Feasible substitutes: Crushed red pepper flakes, paprika (non-spicy version)
(7) CinnamonCinnamon, in its non-crushed powdered form, shows the morphology of a miniature woody tree bark. Except that this “tree bark” carries a strong, sweet and magnificent aroma that would fill the kitchen instantly when it is cooked. There is a generous amount of substitutes for this fruity spice.
Feasible substitutes: Cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, anise and curry powder.
Notice how curry powder always pop-up in almost every spices mentioned above? That is because curry powder are pre-mixed version of all the spices mentioned above! Therefore, it is very important to add substitute spices little by little to adjust to your desirable taste.
(8) SaffronAhh… the saffron. Perhaps the most expensive spices in the world. Saffron has a subtle, floural aroma that is sweet, but a little bitter at the same time. It is also one of the most important spices in Indian cooking (such as the chicken biryani) if you are looking for that authentic taste in your dishes. It could be replaced, colour-wise with turmeric, but it would not give you the floural aroma it has.
Feasible substitute: Turmeric
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