My Curry Journey

It all started when my brother Victor found mum’s recipe for making curry powder. Mum used to buy bulk the various spices needed for her recipe, and would wash them and sun them dry. Then she would go to the Indian spice blender and get the spices ground and mixed. She would pack them up and sell them to neighbours and friends. Mum was diligent. Her powder was quite “powderful” and popular. So my brother did the same thing for remembrance sake, and passed some curry powder to me. I missed my mum’s curry but cannot exactly remember how it tasted, but surmised that I would recognize it if I were to taste it. 


I did not know how my mum made her curry and wished I learned it when she was around. Nobody else in the family knew how. So I looked around YouTube for recipes that used curry powder to make curry. I found one of an Indian version and tried it out. It was a light curry but tasted nothing like my mum’s curry. Thankfully it was edible and my wife and daughter and myself finished it up. Edible, as I said. 

The second time, I again surfed YouTube and found a Malaysian recipe. Maybe, this was how mum cooked it, the Malaysian style. This was a total disaster. It was too salty. I had marinated the chicken in too much salt. I had to ask my wife how to salvage the dish. In the end, we added potatoes, removed the chicken and soaked it in water. I also had to make more curry gravy to dilute the saltiness of the old pot. These did the trick and again the curry was edible. We finished it. Edible, as I said.

Thank God my wife and daughter were patient and not fussy eaters. I had an evaluation after two failures of replicating my mum’s curry, and thought that maybe this pursuit would be futile. First, I cannot replicate what I cannot remember clearly. Second, when my supply of curry powder is gone, who is going to make the next batch? I should develop my own curry making process with curry powder that is available commercially, for example Baba’s curry. Or just settle for those commercial ready-made rempah by brands like Prima or triple A or A1.


Recently, a friend, Pastor Patrick of Enjoy Church, invited me, Pastor Lawrence Koo of New Horizon Church, and Pastor Andrew Khoo of New Hope Community Services for lunch. It was a sumptuous lunch, all cooked by him. Only two other pastors I know cooked this well, my former colleague the Mandarin congregation pastor Edmund Loong, and my pastor friend Koh Seng Chor. The star dish was his duck curry, he declared. That caught my attention. I liked the taste of it. It was quite unique. He told me how it was done and it seemed relatively easy to follow. I will try this one day. 


Yesterday, in an emergency, I had to cook. I decided to use those Japanese instant curry mix which I had in the kitchen cupboard. Cubed the potatoes, onions and carrots and chopped two chicken thighs into pieces. Fried three beef burger patties and eggs and dinner was ready. I was tempted to forget about all the long-drawn process of making curry using curry powder – simply buy those off-the-shelf ones and in less than an hour it is done! The Japanese curry was edible and it was finished. Edible, as I said.

I was thirsty that night. Must be the amount of artificial monosodium glutamate in it. I am back to wanting to find a sustainable way of making curry, good curry (without ajinomoto). I hope to do it before my heart gives way. 

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