This ain't no damn curry in a hurry!

June 17th, 2011

In 1983 I was at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi working in the soup/continental section in the ‘main kitchen’. This section made soups for the entire hotel, all the restaurants, the banquet rooms, room service and even the Chinese restaurant!!

My Chef was John, we called him ‘Uncle John’; he was totally illiterate, he couldn’t read a word of English, nor I guess any other language, but he was a master of cooking all things soup and Indian food.

Uncle John would ask us (cooks) to write down his recipes whilst he cooked the soups perfectly. The method would never change but the weights were never the same. For him it was all an andaaza when it came to weights. The method, however, had to be consistent, and that is what mattered. Whatever it was he cooked this way tasted great!!

Cooking is like constructing a building; it’s always a layer upon a layer, a brick being placed on top of another brick. It takes time and can’t be rushed.

“You must cook the first layer before you add the next layer,” Uncle John would say. “When you put all the ingredients in at the same time betae, the dish comes out confused, it has no identity, no name or character and that is when it is called a ‘curry in a hurry’; or, a ‘damn curry in a bloody hurry!!”‘, and he would laugh as he said this, grinning broadly at us all.
Indian food in most parts of the world is perceived to be greasy (‘full’ of oil) and people worry it’ll be too hot for them as they think it contains ‘sh.. loads of chilli’, both of which are far from the truth. Look at it this way, if every Indian dish did contain these so-called buckets of of chillies and oil, there wouldn’t be any Indian standing with healthy intestines and neither would there be 1.2 billion of us!!

As for the oil, John has always maintained that it is only used as a medium for cooking . It’s just like water and air – when you use water as a medium it is called ‘boiling’ or ‘steaming’ and when air is used as a medium, it is called ‘baking’ and never do you eat the medium!

Oil is added to help caramelise the onions which is the foundation of any (or let’s say, many!) Indian dishes. All good cooks know that unless the sugar from the onions comes to the surface, or bhunaoing in Hindi, the oil cannot also come to the surface which in turn will prevent the dish from maturing, which in turn will reduce its shelf-life which in turn means it will go ‘off’, which in a final awful turn means it will not taste good the next day!! We want our dishes to mellow and grow richer in flavour overnight which is what happens if the dish is allowed to be ‘built’ correctly.
Damn it! If a curry has gone through so many intricate processes and has taken so long to cook, how in the wide-world can it be called a curry in a hurry??

Well, for now let’s just call it Kori Gassi.

To see a Mangalorean Chicken “Kari”, not in a Hurry, click Mangalore chicken recipe.


  1. S.ramanathan

    Your writing is as delicious as your cooking – Keep writing and all the best,

  2. Venu Rao

    HEY MAN YOU ROCK !! I find it difficult to teach the new chef of today to understand that Curry CANNOT be made in a HURRY. Thanks for the building tip I will now start using it on the chefs!

  3. alok Sharma

    Wow, Ajoy sahib you really love, live and feel food. What a passion. it reminds me of the couplet
    Mohabbat ke liye kuchh khas dil mehfooz hote hain. Yeh woh nagma hai jo har saz par gaya nahin jata.

  4. Dr.hemant waikar

    so simple and nicely explained

  5. Juggy

    ah …ajoy….sound so simple cooking…if only cooking was as simple as reading!!!!! JUGGY

  6. Nicky

    Neat article,machan!
    Keep it coming!

  7. G M Noohu

    Nice one Ajoy. I was delighted to meet you after three decades last Sunday. I read all your recent posts. Thanks a lot of sharing your thoughts with us. Looking forward to the next one.

  8. Gopinath.

    Simply said…the fundamental of indian cooking…
    Have actually seen in an Indian restaurant in Gulf..The cook added all the ingredients in a degchi and lit the burner at the end .. yes it used to be a Confused dish!!

  9. Pallavi Lulay

    Wah! chef Ajoy.
    Those TINY, SMALL SUBTLE TIPS are so very very important. “There ‘s so much learning in it” say all those 2 whom I mai this.
    Keep it up!
    Anju tai.

Comments are closed.


Garam Masalas