Photo: James Lenhart / Contributor
For years, I would bristle at the use of the word “curry” — it sounded like a blunt catch-all description doing injustice to the aromatic, nuanced stews of India. The word is practically non-existent in the Indian lexicon — every preparation has a regional name, from Jalfrezi for a stir-fry to a creamy Korma to Dhansaak, a lentil meat stew. Neither was curry powder ever used in India — it was always a unique combination of spices and herbs that distinguished each preparation.
Although there are many explanations of the word “curry,” it was most likely derived from Southern Indian languages where “kari” or “karil” denotes a spiced dish of sautéed vegetables and meat. In the early 17th century, the Portuguese used the word “caril” or “caree” to describe broths made with butter, nuts and all kinds of spices. The British transformed “caree” into “curry,” then used as a generic term for any spicy dish with a thick sauce or gravy from every part of India.
Resigning to the inevitable, over the years I have embraced the word and even make a “curry masala” at my restaurant. With crawfish season in full swing, here is a South Indian-inspired Louisiana crawfish curry using coconut oil, which adds an interesting and delicious flavor. Enjoy it with simple rice or toasted buns.