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100-Day Curry Challenge

100 DiffereNt Curries
in 100 Days

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Day Fifteen

Keema Kukhura

Dish: Keema Kukhura (Chicken with mince)
Origin: Nepal/India
Where:
Gurkha’s Inn, Colomb Street, Greenwich, England
Eat with: Garlic nan

This is the first Curry Club meeting for months and there’s a festive spirit in the air, with even the grumpiest of members raising a smile or two. I plump for my favourite dish in the Gurkha’s Inn: Keema Kukhura, which is chicken with mince. Just to clarify, this is not a dish of chicken mince, it’s a dish that comprises chicken chunks and mince. The dish makes no attempt at ‘delicate this’ or ‘balanced this’, it’s simply a spicy meat feast. And I love it.

It’s not a dish you’ll find in many places so I always tuck in when I visit this restaurant. It’s naturally thick and in dryish sauce that is medium spiced. It’s particularly good when washed down with a cold Gurkha beer.


Day Fourteen

Chicken Chilli Masala

Dish: Chicken Chilli Masala
Origin: Punjab
Where:
Mogul, Church Street, Greenwich, England
Eat with: Pilau Rice

The Mogul is the Curry Club’s restaurant of the year so it was a pleasure to join the owner Mr Dev for a curry after lockdown. The Mogul has been beating Indian heart of Greenwich centre for 40 years so the owner’s recommendation it was: Punjabi Chicken Chilli Chicken. The classic tomato, garlic and ginger sauce with fresh chillies was the business. Fresh chillies just have that heat to cut through the sauce and give each mouthful a tasty in-take of breath, so beloved of heat lovers. A delight.

Hot, hearty dishes such as this are much beloved in North India and it’s not surprising that they have become hugely popular in British Indian restaurants. Thick sauce and that cutting fresh chilli heat are great for lovers of the old-school Madras and Vindaloo dishes.


Day Thirteen

Smoker Chicken Tikka

Dish: Smoker Chicken Tikka
Origin: North India
Where:
Cooked by Dan “Half-Man, Half-Curry” (see recipe here)
Eat with: Wrap, salad and mayo

Chicken Tikka is an absolute classic North Indian dish. With the help of a friend who’s in the know of “how to use a smoker properly” it’s time for a classic dish twist: Smoker Chicken Tikka. A smoker works by cooking the meat (or whatever) with the heat of the smoke and not direct heat. There are electric smokers but we used a traditional one.

There are two chambers and the wood is burnt in the first to create the coals. Apple or hickory wood soaked in water are added to the coals t create more smoke and add flavour. The smoke drifts through to the second chamber where (in this case) the marinated chicken is waiting. The residual smokey heat cooks the meat very slowly (and very smokily).

We used deboned chicken thighs which had been marinated in our Tandoori Marinade for a few hours. Chicken breast will dry out too much and meat on the bone takes hours to cook in a smoker. We then placed the meat in the part of the second chamber furthest from the first chamber to avoid the direct heat and left it for 90 minutes, turning it once.

The result was nicely cooked chicken with the slightly charred edges you’ll get from a tandoor. But it was way more more smokier than a tandoor, which uses direct heat and smoke for cooking.
Wraps with salad and mayo or spicy sauce make the wait worthwhile.


Day Twelve

Chingri Malai Curry

Dish: Chringri Malai Curry (Prawns with coconut milk)
Origin: Bengal
Where:
Cooked by Dan “Half-Man, Half-Curry” (see recipe here)
Eat with: Basmati Steamed Rice

Chringri Malai Curry (also known as Bengali Malai Prawns) is a dish, not surprisingly, from Bengal, the region that straddles east India and Bangladesh. The dish includes coconut milk, an ingredient that is rarely used in British Indian Restaurant Style dishes despite many of the restaurants being run by Bengalis. I’ve no idea why this isn’t as much a staple as Jalfrezi (another dish of Bengali origin), Dopiaza or Dhansak.

To make it prawns are marinated in chilli flakes, turmeric and salt and combined with coconut milk to create a beautiful coastal favourite. The addition of sugar to the mustard oil creates a beautiful red colour, something akin to the Red Thai Curry.

Chringri Malai Curry is a celebration dish which would be served at weddings and birthdays and the prawns are cooked with the shells and heads lefts on for taste and presentation.


Day Eleven

Chinese Chicken Curry

Dish: Chicken Curry (Chinese takeaway-style)
Origin: UK/China
Where:
Noodle Time, Nelson Road, Greenwich, England
Eat with: Egg Fried Rice

The takeaway Chinese Chicken Curry is not a patch on the richer, more nuanced Indian curries. But every so often they have a strange attraction, especially after a couple of pints. As simple as the curries your gran used to make, they are little more than some curry paste or powder added to water plus the main ingredients (chicken, pork, shrimps etc) and some al-dente vegetables. The ones I grew up with were simply chicken and an absolute mass of sliced onions. This version from the value-for-money Noodle Time included green peppers, onions, mushrooms and for some reason just a single piece of red pepper.

Chinese restaurants first appeared in the UK in the 1880s to service the visiting Chinese students and seamen. They boomed after World War Two when the servicemen returned from Hong Kong in search of the food they had discovered while away. Hong Kongers filled the slots and because their food is dominated by Cantonese that’s the main style of food found in UK restaurants and takeaways.

According to a survey by KPMG in 2019 Brits favourite takeaway food is Chinese, ahead on Indian food and fish and chips. I’m not sure many people would claim this type of curry is particularly Chinese though.


Day Ten

Thai Green Chicken Curry

Dish: Thai Green Chicken Curry (kaeng khiao wan)
Origin: CentralThailand
Where:
Oscars, Calle Cruz, Fuengirola, Spain
Eat with: Chips or Jasmine Steamed Rice

This is a rather rapid return to Thai food so soon into the challenge but Oscars did such a good Red Thai Curry that it had to be done. The Thai Green Curry has three little chillies next to it in the menu so it’s rated higher than the red in the heat stakes. Who am I to argue with a Thai chef? Although I probably upset her by going rogue with my side of chips. Chips are delicious dipped in the thin sauce but don’t have the soakability of rice so it’s always a trade off.

Green Thai Curry hails from Central Thailand with the name (like the red curry) stemming from the colour of the chillies used. As with the red the paste is made up of chilli peppers, garlic, shallots, shrimp paste, coriander and lemongrass and then cooked with coconut milk. And as with red curry it’s rather delicious. I may have got stuck in the Thai curries rather early in the challenge but I certainly found a place that knows how to cook them.


Day Nine

Palak Chicken

Dish: Palak Chicken (Spinach and chicken)
Origin: Punjab
Where:
Biryani, Fuengirola, Spain
Eat with: Butter chapatis

I visit Biryani on only its second day of business. Based just off the port area it certainly has plenty of competition, not only from other Indian restaurants (there are a couple nearby) but also a string serving every imaginable type of cuisine for the locals and tourists alike. From the quality of the dish I had it certainly has a good chance of surviving.

Clearly a Punjabi restaurant, and “of course!” a Punjabi chef I’m assured, I have not need to go any further than the Palak Chicken. Great chunks of marinated chicken cooked with spinach and spices and mopped up with butter chapati. It’s makes the perfect mid-afternoon curry as the temperatures outside reach the sweltering mid-thirties and the little pieces of fresh ginger used as garnish as provide bursts of flavour every so often.

I’m delighted that the chapatis come buttered as standard. “Oh yes, so you can enjoy the full flavours of this dish.”
This hearty, slightly sweet-tasting dish is a Punjabi comfort-food favourite but is now popular all over the world, where it is often listed as Sag (meaning greens) Chicken. It’s best, and much more tasty, if cooked so the sauce is rich and thick and just coats the chicken pieces.


Day Eight

Thai Red Prawn Curry

Dish: Thai Red Prawn Curry (kaeng phet)
Origin: Thailand
Where:
Oscar, Calle Cruz, Fuengirola, Spain
Eat with: Jasmine Steamed Rice

Although there are a few Thai-style curries, the red, green and yellow are the best known, the difference originally being the colour of the chillies used. They make a nice alternative to Indian curries with their thinner soupy sauce and sharp, punchy heat. Each one is made using a paste then adding coconut milk create the sauce. The paste for red curries is made up of red chilli peppers, garlic, shallots, shrimp paste and coriander. Lemongrass provides that distinctive Thai curry taste.

Oscar has been in the heart of the tourist area in the town of Fuengirola and is highly rated by ex-pats for it’s value and Thai food, thanks to a native chef. There is a decent selection of Thai dishes on the menu but I’m on a curry mission so plump for the Red Thai Curry with prawns, which is given two little chillies on the menu for heat. These are my first prawns on the 100-Day Challenge and they are spot on soaked in the red sauce with strips of crispy vegetables.


Day Seven

Chicken Madras

Dish: Chicken Madras (British Indian Restaurant Style)
Origin: UK
Where:
Cooked by Dan “Half-Man, Half-Curry” (see recipe here)
Eat with: Basmati Steamed Rice

If you walked into a restaurant in Madras (now called Chennai) in India and ordered a “Madras” you’d almost certainly be met with a blank look. It’d be the same as walking into a restaurant in the English capital and asking for a “London”.

The Madras is a British invention and its connotations with “hot” stem from the traders and soldiers who were in the city from the time the British arrived in 1640. Not only do South Indians love spicy food but the city is extremely hot and humid, with temperatures usually over 30°C (86°F) and frequently reaching 40°C (104°F).

Those early ex-pats would have brought back the tastes of India when they returned home with their pots of spice mixes, or early curry powders. As there were no standard for these spice mixes (just as not all curry powders are the same today), it’s possible that the mixes with a little bit extra zing were called “Madras” to acknowledge their extra heat.

The early Indian restaurant owners in Britain carried through this thinking by adding their own hotter mixes or more chilli powder to their standard curry to create the Madras Curry and why today many people are able to order virtually any dish on the menu and ask the chef to make it “Madras hot”.


Day Six

Keema Muttar

Dish: Keema Muttar (Mince with peas)
Origin: Punjab
Where:
Cooked by Dan “Half-Man, Half-Curry” (see recipe here)
Eat with: Butter Nan


I must admit a good lasagne would go down well tonight. Even a burnt one. But I plough on in my 100-Day Challenge. So on Day Six I plump for what is one of my favourite dishes: Keema Muttar. Curried lamb mince with peas and spices for a dry, super tasty dish.

I used to get asked in the restaurants why I ordered this dish. I was told it was for old guys with not teeth. Lately none of the waiter’s have been saying that. Should I be worried? Get good quality mince, use a proper garam masala and you’ve cracked this dish. Don’t go easy on the peas: the pop in the mouth loveliness is a treat with the dark meatniness of the rest of this dish.


Day Five

Chicken Dhansak

Dish: Chicken Dhansak (British Indian Restaurant Style)
Origin: Persia (Iraq)
Where:
Cooked by Dan “Half-Man, Half-Curry” (see recipe here)
Eat with: Brown Rice

There’s this woman I know. For the purposes of this this story let’s call her my mum, for indeed that’s who it is. She loves Dhansak. Really loves it. Every time we go out to an Indian restaurant, and there have been many visits, she follows the same routine. She’ll pick up the menu and every so often exclaim “Oh!”, when she sees a dish of particular interest. “This looks nice. Chillies, cream and special spices.” Then a bit later, “Oh! I’ve never had that one before. It’s a dish from South India. Bet that’s tasty.”

Finally, when the popadoms are but crumbs on the plates she orders her Chicken Dhansak. She just can’t resist that thick sweet and sour sauce, full of chicken chunks, lentils, vegetables and healthy dose of garam masala; a dish that more like a stew than a curry in reality. The old school 1980s restaurant version of the dish used to include a chunk of pineapple but you rarely get that anymore.

But that’s enough about my mum. Let’s have a history lesson. Dhansak is dish that comes from Persia (now Iraqi). The Parsees (from Persia) were followers of the ancient religion Zorastrianism, the dominant religion in the area at the time. But when their country was invaded by Arab Muslims in the 7th Century they fled south to escape persecution and settled in Gujerat.

They took their cooking skills with them and Dhansak is one of the best known of the dishes, with it’s distinctive sweet and sour taste,a combination more associated with Chinese than Indian cuisine. Lots of eople fell in love with it, including my mum. I wonder if she misses that chunk of pineapple?


Day Four

Goan Fish Curry

Dish: Goan Chicken Curry
Origin: Goa
Where:
Cooked by Dan “Half-Man, Half-Curry” (see recipe here)
Eat with: Steamed Basmati Rice

What’s more exotic than a fish curry cooked on the beach? Unfortunately this was cooked on the hob at home but you get the picture. Coconut milk, tamarind, juicy white fish and blazing heat (unfortunately from the electricity in this case) creates a dish that is soooo Goan.

Goa is more famous for the searingly hot Vindaloo but the location of this tiny state, along the western coast of the country, by the Arabian Sea, means seafood naturally features prominently in its cuisine. Chillies are also important in Goan cuisine having been introduced to to the country by the Portuguese in 1498. And there are plenty of them in this dish. Check out this link for more about Goan cuisine.


Day Three

Murgh Sarabi

Dish: Murgh Sarabi (Chicken with brandy)
Origin: Delhi
Where:
Maharajah, Clontarf, Dublin, Ireland
Eat with: Pilau Rice

Sarabi (or more commonly sharabi) means drunk as in alcohol, which this dish includes. The Maharajah is a small neighbourhood takeaway near the mouth of the Tolka River in north Dublin and looks out towards Dublin port where you’ll sometimes see the Holyhead ferries. They use brandy in their Murgh Sarabi, although other types of alcohol such as whisky or wine are used by other chefs.

It’s a classic tomato-based sauce with cashew nuts providing a thick texture, but the mix of spices, as if the wont of many curry places, simply described somewhat mysteriously using the establishment’s name – Maharaja spices. You can order the dish as mild, medium or hot so I plump for “as it should be made”, which I’m told is with two chillies. There’s not an option for tipsy, drunk or plastered when it comes to the amount of brandy.


Day Two

Lagan Ka Murgh

Dish: Lagan Ka Murgh (Chicken with yoghurt and nuts)
Origin: Hyderbadi
Where:
Cooked by Dan “Half-Man, Half-Curry” (see recipe here)
Eat with: Nan or Pilau Rice

Hyderabadi dishes draw on the area’s royal history and this Lagan Ka Murgh is no different, with plenty of yoghurt, almonds and spices. The area was home to the great Persian state known as the Bahami Sultanate and the Nizams of Hyderabad, who initially ruled the area as part the famed Moghul empire and later under the British.

The dish is relatively simple to make, with pieces of chicken marinated in yoghurt, garlic, ginger and spices and then added to pastes of onion and toasted almonds. This dish is also called Dum Ka Murgh. Dum is a style of cooking where meat is cooked slowly in a sealed container, dating back to when hunters would dig pits in the ground while out on expeditions. The hunters would then light fires in the pits and cover them, the pits warming up like ovens and protecting the flames from the wind.

Luckily there’s a butchers down the road so I could skip the hunting bit and the modern sealed pans work a treat with electricity. Traditionally this dish would be cooked with on-the-bone chunks of meat but this recipe uses boneless chunks, which work just as well with the thick, creamy sauce.


Day One

Pepper Chicken

Dish: Pepper Chicken
Origin: South India
Where:
Cooked by Dan “Half-Man, Half-Curry” (see recipe here)
Eat with: Chapati

The 100-Day Curry Challenge deserves a hot and spicy start. Chilli is usually associated with curries but it didn’t arrive in India until the Portuguese shipped it over in the late 15th Century. Before that the king of heat in the local food was pepper. It’s still used in many dishes, of course, but it’s chilli that gets all the hot-heads jumping up and down in excitement. Pepper provides a sharp, intense heat and it’s remains popular in the South Indian states of Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu (where you’ll Chennai, previously called Madras). Pepper Chicken is a dish that’s cooked in coconut oil, ensuring that classic South Indian taste throughout, and pepper is added twice – at the start in the bargar (infusing the oil with the flavours of wholes spices) and at the end. The resulting taste is wonderfully fresh and well as hot.


Day Zero

Fish and Chips

Dish: Fish and Chips
Origin:
England
From: La Costa, Clontarf, Dublin, Ireland

It’s fair to say I eat a lot of curry. I have done ever since I fell in love with Indian food in my teens, and it’s a diet which has led to me being dubbed Dan ‘Half-Man, Half-Curry’. But I have to admit I do skip the odd day when my yearning for a plate of bangers and mash or a burger gets the better of me. I know, I know, I feel ashamed of myself in the morning. Curry has been there for me through thick and thin, and there I go risking the whole relationship for a quick fling with a dirty cheeseburger.

The only thing I can do to prove my love is be exclusive. So for the next 100 days I’ve set myself the challenge of eating a different curry every day. 100 days. 100 different curries.

There’ll be some old favourites in there – Tikka Masala, Vindaloo and Korma – that’s for sure. But over the next 100 days there’ll be many dishes I’ve never tried, and many I’ve probably never heard of yet, as I go in search of great curries from the different regions of the sub-continent and around the world. I’ll be cooking a lot of dishes myself (and posting the recipes) but there will, no doubt, be some trips to my favourite curry houses and takeaways and I’ll be passing on a few tips from some friends who work in the industry.

But as it’s still Day Zero there’s still time to squeeze in one of my non-curry favourites. Right, I’m off down the chippy…

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