So, you’ve fallen out with the local takeaway and decided that you want to go it alone. Fair play! But, you’ve noticed that your curry is missing that certain ‘something’, but you don’t know what? Well, don’t worry, my friends, I’m here to help! Today, I will run through 12 essential tips and tricks on how to make curry taste better that are actually used by authentic Indian Chefs . If you do what they do, it’ll taste like they make it taste? Simple enough, right? Let’s get the stove on and dive right in!
Quick Answer | How to Make Curry Taste Better?
Don’t make it using jar bought stuff.
Cook it from scratch.
Because you’ll know what’s in your curry, you’ll be able to alter and tweak elements as you see fit. Aside from that, take a look at my list of ‘secret’ ingredients. These nearly always feature in most takeaway curry dishes, and they might just be the key ingredient you are missing.
Read on to find out more…
How to Make Curry Taste Better | What is the Secret to a Good Curry?
Alright, let’s get straight down to it. Here are my 12 top tips to get a great tasting curry
1) Don’t use Jars
Look. There is the odd paste or spice mix that works well. Even the pros use them. But those premade madras and tikka masala jars… you know the ones, pour over and serve...
They have one place. And that is in the bin!
Instead, make your curry from scratch. With a little forward planning and about an hour’s prep, you’ll set yourself up to be able to make home-cooked curries for weeks!
2) Use a Decent Pan
This is one of my strongest recommendations. The pan makes all the difference. No, you can’t make a good curry in a saucepan.
Want to know what the Indian chefs use? A frying pan!
This allows them to cook quickly, and it also causes the sauce to become caramelized on the side of the pan. This really changes the curry’s flavour. It’s called the Maillard reaction. Check it out!
3) Cook Your Spices
I see the number of people going to all that effort to assemble a really nice curry powder mix… Before tipping it in right at the end, it causes so much dismay.
You’ve got to show those spices some love.
What do I mean?
It’s easy. The curry spice needs to be one of the first ingredients to go into your pan. By cooking and roasting the spices, you start to release fragrant oils. They also darken, too, meaning that their taste increases in intensity!
4) Avoid Jars of Garlic and Ginger Paste
Go to your kitchen and open that jar of ‘cheats’ garlic and ginger paste. Go on, do it.
Take a good sniff.
Smells like vinegar, right? That’s because it is pickled.
This isn’t what garlic and ginger paste should smell like.
Seriously, you need to consider making your own garlic and ginger paste. It takes about 5 minutes, and as long as you’ve got a great blender for Indian cooking, you’ll have a batch that will keep for weeks.
Not got a blender? Your curry will be so much better! Check my article on the best blenders for Indian cooking, and see what they are all about and what you can make.
5) Seasoned Oil
Salt and pepper? Nope! The seasoned oil you’ll get in Indian restaurants is actually ‘old’ cooking oil.
Isn’t that disgusting?
Nope. They use this oil to fry hundreds of onion bhajis. As a result, the oil takes on a really deep and flavorful onion taste.
Now I’m not suggesting you fry hundreds of bhajis. But here is how you can make something similar. Simply chop and fry a couple of onions in about a cup full of oil. Wait until it is dark and golden, then throw in some cumin seeds. Strain the oil and use it for cooking curries whenever you like.
6) Understand the Elements of Curry Flavour
Curry doesn’t have to be ‘hot’. In fact, some of the mildest curries are some of the tastiest.
What taste do you like?
Not sure? That might be exactly where you are going wrong! Think of a flavour profile you want, and choose your ingredients to mirror what you are after.
Here are some of the tastes you’ll find running through various curry dishes and what you can add to encourage them: -
- Double cream
- Almond or coconut flour
Spice and Heat
- Chilli powder
- Basaar powder
- Cayenne pepper
- Black pepper
- Tomato Puree
- Almond flour
- Ripe Banana
- Lime or Lemon Juice
- Chilli Powder
Richness and Depth
- Curry Leaf
- Beef Stock
- Seasoned oil
- Lime Pickle
- Seasoned Oil
- Darker meats like lamb or chicken legs/thighs
- Butter or Ghee
- Beef or Chicken stock
- Dark fried onions
- Meat Juices
- Soy sauce
7) Use a Rich and Tasty BIR Base Gravy
This is another top tip. How do you think Indian takeaways cook hundreds of curries each evening. Do you reckon they cook a separate batch of sauce every single time?
Instead, they make a lot of tasty (but quite mild) onion base gravy, which they then add spices to depending on the ordered curry.
If you don’t know about base gravy, then it is time that you learn. It is one of the key ways to make curry taste better.
8) Use Tomato Puree… Properly
Just squeeze it in like a tube of toothpaste, right?
There’s a knack to using tomato puree. It’s diluted to be about the same consistency as milk before being added to the pan. This allows it to cook down and caramelize slightly, producing a sweetness instead of that sharp and nasty acidic taste you get when you use it raw.
9) High Heat Only
Remember when I talked about using the right curry pan? This is the reason. You can get it blistering hot.
Here’s the thing if you want to know how to make a curry taste better.
It isn’t a stew. It’s more of a stir fry. By cooking over high heat, you get browning and caramelization going on earlier. Cooking quickly keeps meat tender and gets more of a fry going instead of a boil.
It also means you’ll get your curry a bit quicker too!
10) High Oil Content
Ever opened the lid of your takeaway dish and noticed a nice layer of oil floating on top.
Yep, that’s the good stuff. While you can have a healthy curry, if you are focusing on taste, my advice is this…
Don’t skimp on the oil!
11) Let it Rest
Ever noticed how food always seems to taste better the next day? It’s a documented scientific process!
If you are making curry, try and set some aside to rest in the fridge, or you could even consider freezing it. Try one before, and another after and see which one tastes best. It’ll be the latter 100% of the time.
12) Add a Few ‘Secret’ Ingredients
Alright, they don’t call me the curry spy for nothing!
I’ve seen a fair few Indian chefs working their magic in my time, and I took careful notes of exactly what they were doing to make their curry taste the best. They have a few tricks up their sleeves. See my list of secret ingredients, then you’ll definitely know how to make curry taste better…
Secret Ingredients to Make Curry Taste Better
Ok, so there is no magic here. These are all things you could easily buy online. But you aren’t going to get any of the below in a shop-bought jar.
Here’s a list of secret ingredients used to make the curry taste better in takeaways: -
You’d be amazed at the difference the odd teaspoon of sugar here and there makes.
I guarantee that your favourite takeaway uses it in their butter chicken and kormas. You don’t have to go too sweet, just enough to round off the flavour and make your curry taste divine.
I’d say that 90% of all the curry dishes I ever saw made started with a pinch of fenugreek leaves. You might also hear them called methi. Consider this a little like the Indian version of bay leaves. They add a subtle depth to curries. Once you’ve tried it, you are going to want to buy a big box.
There’s nothing like fresh curry leaves. They are pungent and add a really strong taste to curries. They are oval-shaped and about 2cm long. You can pick up a bag from your local Asian supermarket for pennies! Even if you don't have an Asian supermarket nearby, it is still really easy to get hold of some fresh curry leaves.
You’d be amazed at how much beef stock is used in most curries at your local takeaway. They won’t loosen your curry using water (it dilutes the flavour). If your curry lacks a certain richness, try adding a single cup of beef stock to enliven it.
A lot of the time, lacklustre taste boils down to poor seasoning.
And by poor, I mean not enough.
Don’t skimp on the salt. You’ll want a good three-finger pinch, at least.
This is a true ‘secret’ ingredient for making a curry taste better. You don’t need much, just a teaspoon. This is a great sugar substitute and seems to provide a sort of roundness to curry. The good news is if you buy a jar, it is cheap, lasts for ages, and you can even use it with your poppadoms!
You won’t find this in many store cupboards, but you could easily pick up a jar here. This should be used really sparingly. I’m talking about half a teaspoon per portion of curry. That fragrant oil and slightly sharp taste will give real depth to your curry.
Give it a whirl and tell me your madras doesn’t taste authentic!
Knowing how to make curry taste better is actually pretty simple. Stick to the same techniques your local restaurant uses, avoid shop-bought jarred rubbish, and add a few ingredients to fix it if it isn’t going your way. Simple right? What’s your worst curry disaster? Let me know in the comments below.