Madras Curry Powder: The Classic British Curry

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Madras curry powder gets its name from what was once the Indian city of Madras but now is called Chennai. The history of Madras curry powder is almost as long as the history of British colonial rule in India. While it is not as hot as some Indian spice blends, Madras curry is considerably hotter than other western-style curry powder blends. Madras curry powder is not an Indian spice blend while it does use Indian ingredients. It is a formulation of those ingredients that is designed to suit English tastes and differs significantly from the spice blends used in Madras.

The earliest version of Madras curry powder was sold at the Oriental Depot shop in Leicester Square in the mid 19th century. It was at this point that the British love of curry powder blends and Indian spices in general first took hold.

Madras curry powder flavor profile

While most Madras curry powder formulations are similar, they are not all the same. Generally speaking, the ingredients in most Madras curry powder blends create a flavor profile that is at once tangy and earthy; however, ingredients can vary and this means that flavor profiles can vary as well. For example, some blends are hotter than others.

Madras curry powder can have citrus flavor notes along with the bright yellow color most people associate with curry powder.

Health benefits of Madras curry powder

Madras curry has a range of ingredients known for their nutritional benefits. The spices in Madras curry include turmeric, red chili peppers, and fenugreek. These ingredients provide nutrients such as:

  • Minerals: Turmeric is rich in iron as are cumin and fenugreek. All three of them are used in Madras curry powder. Other ingredients provide calcium, potassium, and other mineral nutrients.
  • Fiber: Most of the ingredients in Madras curry are rich in fiber, including coriander and fenugreek.
  • Vitamins: Turmeric and the dried chili peppers in Madras curry provide various important vitamins including vitamin A and vitamin C.

The nutrients in Madras curry powder provide benefits with regard to treating or preventing certain health conditions like:

  • Diabetes: Studies have shown that the curcumin in turmeric can help to improve insulin sensitivity and prevent sudden increases in blood sugar. Both of these can help to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • High cholesterol: The fiber in the different ingredients makes Madras curry powder beneficial for inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol into the blood. In addition, research has shown fenugreek to be beneficial for reducing cholesterol levels.
  • Removal of toxins: The coriander in Madras curry powder may help with the removal of lead and mercury from the body and can prevent some of the symptoms of heavy metal poisoning.

Common uses Madras curry powder

It can be used to give a strong flavor and color to dal and is just as effective for cooking vegetables as it is for meat. It can also be adapted to work in a variety of western-style dishes. Use it as an ingredient in a dry rub for barbecued meats or in soups.

The fact that it is spicier than most other curry powder blends means is a good reason to exercise moderation if you are not a fan of spicy food. Use less of it until you become familiar with its heat level. You may also want to serve it with a raita, which is a yogurt-based sauce that has the benefit of providing relief from the sting of hot spices.