The first thing to note about Madras curry powder and standard curry powder is that they are both British spice blends, not Indian ones. While some go as far as to say that they have nothing to do with Indian food, this is not exactly the case. Both blends have their roots in Indian culture in that they are made up of spices that are used in traditional Indian cooking, the name curry actually comes from a Tamil word and Madras was once the name of a city in India.
Despite the fact that both blends are formulated to cater to British taste buds and have the word curry in their names, they are different. If you need a curry powder and are trying to decide between Madras curry powder and regular curry powder, it is important to look at how they compare to each other. Let’s break down the similarities and differences in another SPICEography Showdown.
How does Madras curry powder differ from curry powder?
Both Madras curry powder and curry powder have many of the same ingredients. Turmeric provides both with an intense yellow color, while spices like fenugreek and cumin provide much of the flavor. The key difference between the two is heat. While curry powder blends tend to differ from maker to maker, Madras curry powder tends to have more: SPICEography Showdown when compared to standard curry powder.
The heat in Madras curry powder that you would buy in a store or online comes from chili peppers. Because Madras curry powder has a significant amount of red chilies, its color is usually darker and redder than regular curry powder.
Another difference has to do with availability. While curry powder of one sort or another is available in most grocery stores, curry powder that is made in the Madras style is more of a specialty item. If your grocery store has a British food aisle, this is the first place that you should look for it. In some cases, Asian food stores and Indian grocery stores may carry Madras curry powder even though it is not something that is used in India.
Can you use Madras curry powder in place of curry powder and vice versa?
Madras curry powder can be used as a substitute for regular curry powder as long as you are mindful of the heat. While it may be seen as an upgrade for some, those who are sensitive to capsaicin may find food made with it to be inedible. Regular curry powder can be made into a decent substitute for Madras curry powder with the addition of hot chili peppers. You can add chopped hot peppers like habaneros or jalapeños, or you can use a teaspoon or two of cayenne pepper. Since the main difference between the two blends is the heat, adding hot chilies should get something very close to real Madras curry taste.
When should you use Madras curry powder and when should you use curry powder?
If you like spicy food and specifically want to make one of the spicier Anglo-Indian dishes, Madras curry powder is exactly what you need. In the UK, Madras curry powder sits on the hotter end of the curry blend spectrum; the other end is occupied by blends used to make milder dishes like korma. On the other hand, you may want to stick to regular curry powder if you are new to curry powders and/or are not fond of spicy food.