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A World of Curries: Accompaniments to Curry Dishes PDF Print E-mail
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A World of Curries: Accompaniments to Curry Dishes
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By Dave DeWitt


Coconut Milk Rice

Saffron Rice

Cucumber Salad
with Yogurt

Spicy Indian Salad

Mango and Coconut Chutney

Apple and Raisin Chutney




And what dishes should be served with the curries in this series?  Most curries are served with some form of rice, and plain white rice is an excellent accompaniment to most curries.  I have given recipes for two exotic rices found in various parts of the world.  I have also included some non-curried side dishes and breads that go with curries, and they can accompany curries from all over the world, so cooks are encouraged to experiment with various combinations.

The condiments are usually either served in bowls, so that guests may sprinkle them over the curry, or are placed on the side of the individual dishes.  Additionally, here is a general list of basic condiments often served with curries worldwide: fried eggplant, tamarind jam, candied coconut, candied ginger, pickled vegetables (such as onions), mango chutney, grated fresh coconut, grated roasted coconut, chopped peanuts or almonds, grated or slice hard-boiled eggs, chopped crisp bacon, chopped tomatoes, and salted fish. 

Curry and Beverages

The curry controversy continues when the question comes up about what drinks to serve with curries.  Of course, many non-alcoholic drinks can be served with curries, including milk to cool them down.  But the controversy arises with alcohol.

"Curries present a perplexing problem," writes John Phillips Cranwell.  "Most of them come from countries whose population is predominately Muslim or Hindu.  To both alcohol is forbidden, hence little indigenous wine exists.  I enjoy beer, or ale with curry, or even a rough red wine."  Cranwell was right about Muslims, but wrong about Hindus, who have no restrictive laws regarding alcoholic beverages.

Many writers believe that wine and curries simply do not work together.  William Templeton Veach and Helen Evans Brown, authors of A Book of Curries and Chutneys, warn: "It is a mistake to serve wine with curry.  Wine is quite foreign to the nature of the dish, and even if the combination were perfectly digestible, the spices of the curry would completely mask the bouquet and flavor of the wine."  Noted oenologist Andre L. Simon agrees: "I do not know of any wine that can be happily partnered with curry."  Another wine expert, Roy Andries de Groot, explains:  "The most exotic menus reach their climax with the incendiary, mouth-burning torrid curries in which the black, green, and red chiles are the masters.  When the dish is a Malaccan Devil's Curry...we are whistling in the dark to hope that wine can be anything more than secondary.  Yet the right wine, if it has a clear enough character to cut through the heat, will refresh the mouth and help separate and balance the flavors...."  De Groot goes on to recommend sparkling wines from California and the Alps.

Harvey Day generally agrees with the wine prohibition, although he concedes that a good champagne is acceptable on "a very special occasion."  He is supported in this contention by English curry expert Pat Chapman, who writes: "The facts are simple: wine, red or white, is perfectly acceptable with curry.  The more delicately spiced the dish, the more sophisticated can be the wine.  My personal favorite with curry is pink champagne or sparkling wine."  He does acknowledge, however, that "fine wines are wasted...their subtlety is overpowered even by mild spicing."  Chapman concludes succinctly: "Wining and dining is for enjoyment--rules are for fools." 

New York wine connoisseur Peter Grieg throws a ringer into the debate: "Although I am quite sure that curry in any form is too pungent a flavor for all wines, why should not a long rum drink complement the dish excellently well, especially in spring and summer?"

The British in India commonly drank ginger beer with curries, and beer of all kinds seems to be the universally accepted alcoholic drink to accompany curries worldwide.  "Generally speaking," observed Harvey Day, "light beers are the best beverages to drink with or after curries."  He went on to note: "If you fancy a Guinness before, and a vintage port after your meal of curry and rice--and if it agrees with you--then to perdition with the Food and Wine Society!"

Later studies indicate that Day was correct.  Statistics collected in 1991 by The Curry Club, a British organization devoted to curry, show that the favorite beverages ordered by diners at curry restaurants were as follows: lager, 45%, wine 21%, beer 20%, non-alcoholic, 14%.  In fact, beer is so popular with curries in the U.K. that Cobra Indian Lager is a major sponsor of a guide to the best curry restaurants.

For curry purists, there is one possible solution to the problem of what to drink: Turtle Lady Curzon.  This beverage was named for Lady Curzon, Vicereine of India from 1899 to 1905, and consists of one cup of turtle consomme, one-half teaspoon of curry powder, and cream to taste.  It was a popular drink aboard the Queen Elizabeth, but, not surprisingly, is hardly ever served today.

Anyway, not all the curry controversies can be definitively resolved.  The ultimate decision as to what curries are, how to cook with them, and what to serve with them is up to the individual cook.  I simply hope that the recipes in this series will cause cooks to develop their own strong opinions about the nature of curries--and what to serve with them.


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