A Look Inside Curry

August 2, 2009 § 1 Comment

When I’m feeing under the weather, I always want to make some Thai curry.  Not only is it comfort food, it has many health benefits.  Usually I make it spicy to help clear out my sinuses and the health benefits of the curry itself are numerous. 

When you hear the word curry, most people think of Indian food.  There are many variations of curry including Thai curry which I most commonly use.  Curry, by definition, is a blend of herbs, spices, and seeds used to flavor stews, meats, vegetables, sauces, and soups. 

Indian Curry

Indian curry is a dried blend of spices, herbs and seeds typically used in a base of clarified butter, tomatoes, and sometimes cream.  The ingredient that gives Indian curry it’s bright orange color is turmeric (or curcumin).  Turmeric is an herb and a member of the rhizome family which is defined as knobby underground stems that are known for their pungent and flavorful flesh.  Other members of the rhizome family are galangal and ginger. 

Here are twenty heath benefits of turmeric (from this website):

  1. It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts and burns.
  2. When combined with cauliflower, it has shown to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of existing prostate cancer.
  3. Prevented breast cancer from spreading to the lungs in mice.
  4. May prevent melanoma and cause existing melanoma cells to commit suicide.
  5. Reduces the risk of childhood leukemia.
  6. Is a natural liver detoxifier.
  7. May prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s diseaseby removing amyloyd plaque buildup in the brain.
  8. May prevent metastases from occurring in many different forms of cancer.
  9. It is a potent natural anti-inflammatory that works as well as many anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects.
  10. Has shown promise in slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis in mice.
  11. Is a natural painkiller and cox-2 inhibitor.
  12. May aid in fat metabolism and help in weight management.
  13. Has long been used in Chinese medicine as a treatment for depression.
  14. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it is a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  15. Boosts the effects of chemo drug paclitaxel and reduces its side effects.
  16. Promising studies are underway on the effects of turmeric on pancreatic cancer.
  17. Studies are ongoing in the positive effects of turmeric on multiple myeloma.
  18. Has been shown to stop the growth of new blood vessels in tumors.
  19. Speeds up wound healing and assists in remodeling of damaged skin.
  20. May help in the treatment of psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions.

That’s an impressive list!  My mom said when she would get a cut or a scrape as a kid in Thailand, her mom would rub some turmeric on it for it’s antiseptic benefits.  She remembers the bright orange color.  I started using turmeric in my cooking to try to reduce inflammation when almost diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a few years back.  I also liked the link to liver detoxification and it’s cancer fighting properties.

Thai Curry

Thai curry is made into a paste using a mortar and pestal and is usually cooked in a base of coconut milk.  You can purchase an already made paste which cuts back on the preparation time considerably.  I prefer green curry, however there is also red, yellow, and massaman curries. 

Massaman curry is from southern Thailand and contains the spices cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg among other things.  They typically put potatoes as well as other vegetables into a massaman curry.  Red curry is supposed to be the spiciest because they contain red chilies although I personally can’t tell the difference between red and green curry.  Green curry’s base is green chilies, and yellow curry’s base is lemongrass and yellow chilies which give it the yellow color.

Thai curries have galangal root in them which is also in the rhizome family.  Turmeric is in Thai curries as well, but usually it’s one of the last ingredients so there isn’t a large enough amount to yield the bright yellow color like Indian curries.

I hope this gave you some good information on the differences in Indian and Thai curries.  You should give curry a try during the next cold and flu season. 

I will be posting my recipe for Thai green curry very soon so look out for that post.

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