No, you aren’t imagining it. You’ve got stuck into the previous day’s curry and noticed that it tastes even nicer than the day before. Why does curry taste better the day after? Well, there are a few very good reasons. Today I’m going to talk you through why curry tastes so amazing the next day.
When curry is stored over an extended period, several reactions happen that intensifies the flavour. Marinading occurs, and starches in your food soak up liquid, making it thicker and tastier. After cooking, proteins in meat also continue to break down, making meat more tender.
Let’s dig further into ‘the science’ of why curry tastes better the day after…
Do Curries Taste Better the Next Day?
Absolutely! The weird thing is that curry tastes better when left to rest for a while in the refrigerator. Sauces thicken up and become creamier too. Curry spices tend to lose any sharpness, and your dish will have a greater depth of taste on the whole.
There are actually a few reasons why curry tastes better the next day. We are going to take a detailed look at the following factors, all of which can contribute to your curry tasting its best after a little rest: -
- Protein breakdown
- Maillard reactions
- Starch Absorbency
- The Mental Aspect
Why Does Curry Taste Better the Day After?
Practically any strongly spiced recipe will ask you to marinate your food, normally for anywhere between an hour and overnight!
The reason for this is, especially with meat, that the spices need time to permeate the outer surface of the food. By leaving them in contact for longer, the spices can soak in.
This phenomenon and practice don’t only work before cooking food. It can also take place afterwards. So, in essence, when you chill leftovers overnight, you are encouraging a form of marinading…
And marinated food tastes better.
Think of the ingredients in your curry as little sponges that love to soak up the flavour. The longer you leave the sponge sat in flavour, the more soaked it will get, right?
If you’ve ever stewed meat, you’ll know that it can start off a little tough and turn all juicy and tender with time.
Which stage do you think is the most absorbent?
Sure, you might have added the spices at the start, but now the meat or vegetables are in a relaxed state. They can more readily accept flavours.
This is most optimum after cooking.
Speaking of meat. When you begin to cook, especially with ‘fatty’ ingredients like beef and lamb, the protein fibres in the meat are held together by something called collagen. This is organic connective tissue.
When you apply sustained heat to this tissue, it turns into a jelly-like state and breaks down. This is what makes your meat tender and juicy after a sustained cook. This process actually continues to happen after you stop cooking.
If you ever want to know why people rest steaks after cooking, this is the reason.
By storing your curry, you give the meat the greatest chance for all those tasty protein fibres to relax, making your dish even more juicy and tasty!
The Maillard Reaction
The Maillard reaction is an interesting one.
If you’ve never heard of it, essentially, the Maillard reaction is what makes cooked food ‘brown’. It is the interaction between amino acids and sugars in food. As these come into contact with a hot pan, they caramelize (giving the brown colour) then undergo pyrolysis (when they turn black).
If you’ve ever tasted the difference between raw and fried onion, you’ve already had first-hand experience of the Maillard reaction. It’s also what gives food that meaty ‘umami’ taste.
These caramelized sugars, when food is left to rest, also soak into the meat or vegetables in your curry.
Soaking Up Juices
Most types of curry don’t just contain meat. There are other starchy carbohydrates such as: -
- Lentils and pulses
- Flours (such as coconut flour in korma)
All of the above are pretty good at soaking up ‘free water’. If you’ve ever put a curry in the fridge, you’ll have noticed that it tends to thicken up. This is because the starchy elements of the curry soak up any liquid elements, making your curry even tastier.
This isn’t just true of curry, but with many other dishes too!
Spice Dilution and Steeping
Which do you think tastes better? A spoonful of coffee powder or coffee powder dissolved in water?
Obviously, the latter, right?
The same can be true of any of the powdered curry spices in your dish. They will dilute when you first add them, but perhaps not as fully as if they were left to rest in cooking liquid or base gravy. By leaving your food to rest overnight, those spices become fully saturated, making them easier for you to taste.
Interaction of Spices
Along with all of the above, by leaving your curry, your spices have time to combine to form new flavours on a molecular level. As this is a chemical reaction, this doesn’t happen overnight.
If you want to get all scientific for a second…
The rate of any chemical reaction changes based on a given concentration divided by time. Increasing the time ensures that your food flavour has the highest chance of undergoing any chemical reactions.
If you are reheating your curry, then you are, in effect, cooking it twice. This gives you double the chance to impart some flavour and a little of the Maillard reaction I described above! You’ll have seen plenty of ‘twice cooked’ dishes that are tasty!
Let’s face it, we can all be influenced by preconceived ideas.
It is no secret that curry tastes better the next day, or at least, it’s a commonly held belief. Essentially, we believe it tastes better, and there could be an element of that influencing our perception. However, this is subjective.
Storing Curry in The Fridge | Top Tips
So, you’ve decided you want to enjoy a curry the next day and taste all of the things I’ve described above? You are going to want to store it properly to ensure optimum taste. Here are some quick tips on how to do it: -
Always Cover Your Curry
You’ll want to cover your curry for a few reasons: -
- It prevents your curry from drying out
- Covering curry stops other foods from dripping into your dish
- Curry stains can be a real nuisance. Covering curry will stop you from staining your fridge
Don’t Store Curry Below Raw Meat in the Fridge
This is a big one, and you have to be careful. The last thing you need is raw meat dripping into your food, as this can make you really sick.
Be sure to store your curry above raw ingredients. Oh, and I mean on a shelf above, not stacked on top of!
Don’t Eat Curry More than Two Days Old
If you’ve read my article on how to make curry ahead of time, you’ll already know this. But it is recommended to avoid eating cooked food if it was prepared more than two days ago.
It’s OK to Put Warm Food in the Fridge!
It’s a bit of an “old wives’ tale” that you can’t put warm food in the fridge. In fact, most advice nowadays will tell you to get that food down to a low temperature as soon as possible.
Consider Freezing Your Curry
Want to enjoy next day curry a week later?
The good news is that you can, provided you have a freezer.
Check out my article on how to freeze curry here.
Can You Eat Cold Curry and Rice?
You can eat cold curry, and rice provided it has properly chilled and was prepared less than two days ago. In fact, some people claim that cold curry tastes even better than hot curry! While that is down to personal preference, it certainly won’t harm you to eat a cold curry the next day.
There are no ingredients in cooked curry that will make you feel unwell, so, provided the curry was cooked through properly the first time and stored correctly after cooking, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a spoonful of curry on your toast in the morning, or the next day for lunch at work (both of which are guilty pleasures).