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A travelogue of exotic curry dishes abound

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Paul Child, husband of famed chef Julia Child, reflecting on his life of travel, work and food, once said, “If variety is the spice of life, then my life must be one of the spiciest you ever heard of. A curry of a life.” Life can indeed be spicy, and so can curry.

What is it?

Curry powder blends vary with cuisine and recipes. Some focus on one or more ingredients to complement different dishes.

Blends usually contain a mix of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ginger powder, fennel seeds, whole black peppercorns, mustard seeds, turmeric powder and red chili powder. Also common are fenugreek seeds, cinnamon, cardamom pods, nutmeg, aniseed, bay leaves, curry leaves from the curry tree (native to Sri Lanka and India) and cloves.

Traditionally, when making blends, seeds and spices should be heated in a pan for a few minutes prior to grinding and blending to release their essential oils.

Frog leg curry at Lido Asian Cuisine. (Garett Fisbeck)
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Frog leg curry at Lido Asian Cuisine.

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Other curries from diverse cuisines are also gaining popularity in metro restaurants.

I tried curried frog legs ($10.95) for the first time at Lido Restaurant, 2518 N. Military Ave.

Frog legs, which we often associate with French fare, have been part of Vietnamese dishes for centuries.

These were served in a Vietnamese curry (with star anise and annatto powder) with coconut milk, scallions and wood ear mushrooms over vermicelli noodles. The dish was garnished with chopped peanuts and cilantro.

Tastes like chicken? Almost. The frog legs tasted like seafood and chicken in a delicious sauce blend. Iced French coffee ($1.95) is  a perfect accompaniment to cool down the spice.

You can go halfway around the world, from Vietnam to the Caribbean, with a drive to Carican Flavors, 2701 N. Martin Luther King Ave. Curried goat ($11.90) is a specialty in Trinidad, Jamaica and right here in this bright, cheerful restaurant.

“I make it mild, not so spicy, so everyone can enjoy it,” said owner Sharon McMillan. “If people want to make it spicier, they can add spices here.”

The goat is marinated in fresh herbs and Caribbean spices, which often include the spicy pod ajwain. Goat is a meat that tastes a bit on the sweet side, and it is perfect at Carican, tender and served with red beans and rice, spinach and fried plantains.

Curry is not native to China, but it does appear in Chinese recipes by way of India. You can find it in OKC at Great Wall, 2800 NW 63rd St. The Singapore Chow Mai Fun ($7.95) is yummy. Fun are Chinese rice noodles, and this pork entrée, served over thin fun, is mixed with scrambled eggs, onions, mushrooms and carrots. While not a menu-listed item, this dish (originally invented by Cantonese chefs) also has a hint of Chinese five-spice powder, a blend of cinnamon, fennel, cloves, white pepper and star anise.

Hot and spicy curried pork ($8.45) has the dangerous scarlet hot pepper image next to it on the menu, and rightly so, as it’s fiery. The pork curry is served over rice in an eye-opening sauce that includes green peppers, mushrooms, a hint of Chinese five-spice powder and onions. Keep a glass of water nearby.

Green curry paste is used frequently in Thai curry dishes and includes garlic, onions, lemongrass, lime zest and shrimp paste. Tana Thai Bistro, 10700 N. May Ave., has an exceptional green curry ($8.95-$9.95) in coconut milk with bamboo shoots, eggplant, red bell peppers and your choice of chicken, beef, tofu or shrimp.

Print headline: Curry favorites, A travelogue of these exotic dishes abound.

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