The great Indian 'kari', which stems from the word for sauce in Tamil, is known to have originated sometime during the ancient Indus civilization. Since then it has travelled beyond boundaries and created many fans across the globe. Britain's love affair with curry is no secret, curries in China and Thailand are also common knowlege. In fact, chicken tikka masala is the most popular restaurant meal in England and Texas meat-only chili is closely related to curry. There are many varieties of dishes called “curries”. For example, in original traditional cuisines, the precise selection of spices for each dish is a matter of national or regional cultural tradition, religious practice, and, to some extent, family preference. Such dishes are called by specific names that refer to their ingredients, spicing, and cooking methods. Curries were spread east by Bhuddist priests and occur in the cuisines of China and Southeast Asia. This post is a bit more personal and really limited to the curry traditions of India. My introduction to curry stems from my college years when I and my Indian friends, particularly my mentor Arun Saha, would create a curry made from whatever we had available and spices sent from family in India.
When the weather starts getting cold here in Las Vegas, I like to make soup. Not just any soup, mind you, but my very favorite soup of winter, Tom Yum, a dose of fresh, dare I say “zingy” flavour in the form of a clean, aromatic soup that is just the thing to shake up a hibernating palate. Tom Yum is a clear, sour and spicy soup that is widely served in Laos and Thailand, but is also very popular in the neighboring countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. “Tom” comes from the Thai word for boiling, and “Yum” is derived from the word “yam” which is a Laotian and Thai spicy and sour salad. This soup is most often made with prawns, but there are many variations which use tofu, noodles, rice, pig knuckles, chicken, and coconut milk instead of, and in addition to, the prawns. Tom yum goong or tom yam kung, the version of the dish most popular among tourists, is made with prawns as the main ingredient. Tom yum gai or tom yam kai is the chicken version of the soup, which is the recipe I will be doing here. Less well-known outside Thailand is Tom Khlong (ต้มโคล้ง), a spicy sour soup where the sourness does not derive from lime juice but through the use of tamarind. I use both tamarind and lime in my soup.