yellow curry powder

yellow curry powder

You’ll find yellow curry powder in a lot of Assyrian and Iraqi dishes, and it's become an important part of our cuisine in recent centuries. It's in everything from biryani to amba to masgouf, and it feels essential to the food that makes me think of home cooking. But it’s important to note that the whole idea of curry actually has a history of colonialism and a connection to our shared experience with the Indian subcontinent (check out articles by Sucharita Kanjilal, Naben Ruthnum, and Little Global Chefs for more information and context). And while it's not strictly an “authentic” Middle Eastern ingredient (nor an authentic Indian one), it's certainly become a part of Iraqi and Assyrian cuisines.

What is authenticity anyway? Things are always changing—some new things come from beautiful instances of cultural sharing, and some new things happen from violence and conquest, but in either case we’re left with whatever remains. When we take stock, maybe it’s just important that we remember and acknowledge our history and our circumstances, while working toward an equitable future.

This curry powder is primarily made up of turmeric, cumin, coriander, and fenugreek, with some warm and spicy background notes. While this blend works really well raw, tempering it in some oil or dry roasting it in a pan for 1 minute will deepen its flavor. You can use this blend in a number of different dishes, a few of which are listed below the following recipe:

yellow curry powder

blend your own yellow curry powder

yield: about 3/4 cup
total time: 5 minutes
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2 tablespoons ground turmeric
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground mustard
2 teaspoons ground curry leaves (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom *
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground chili

  • Prep any whole spices by grinding them and then measuring them. Use a very clean coffee grinder, spice grinder, or mortar and pestle.

  • Combine all ingredients and store in a sealed glass container for 6 months to a year.

* If you're using whole pods, use green cardamom, rather than black, and discard the shells before grinding the seeds. If you're using ground spices, green cardamom is the same thing as a standard shaker of cardamom you'll find in the supermarket.

ways to use yellow curry powder

Also, just to note: I originally posted this recipe and these photos a couple years ago, but I wanted to update the post to give it a bit more historical context and information, as well as streamline the list of curry powder uses, so here it is in its updated form (with the same URL, so you won’t get a dead link if you have the old post pinned or bookmarked). Hope you enjoy!

yellow curry powder

ingredient highlight: sumac

sumac

Whenever I'm writing a recipe, I try to make the ingredient list as flexible as possible. I know that there is nothing more annoying than having to track down an unfamiliar ingredient, paying extra to have it shipped, then having to wait for it to show up before you make the recipe, for which you only need one tablespoon, which leaves the rest of the bottle to languish in the back of the pantry until spring cleaning two years later, when it gets the Marie Kondo treatment, along with all those CDs, mismatched socks, and collections of old National Geographics. It's just the worst.

And while I'll usually list lots of possible substitutions, there are a few ingredients that just can't be replaced. That's why I've dedicated this whole post to sumac—I really believe it's worth it to have a jar in your pantry, especially if you want to regularly cook Middle Eastern food.

Sumac (also spelled sumaq or sumach) is made from the ground-up pods of the sumac shrub. It adds a wonderfully tangy, subtly bitter flavor to whatever it's dusted over. It tastes acidic, but without tasting like citrus or vinegar. An added bonus is the dramatic color, which ranges from tawny red to burgundy, and adds a pop of color to a humble plate of hummus or labneh. It's a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine (as well as many other cuisines around the world) and can be used wherever a little extra tartness is called for. I use it in the following recipes, so feel free to visit these pages if you're looking for a way to use up a stockpile of sumac:

But all of this is not to say that sumac is never replaceable. In certain recipes, lemon will add the necessary tartness, and the sumac won't entirely be missed. But sumac adds a distinctive flavor that just isn't exactly the same as lemon. Some dishes, where sumac is the star, simply can't be made without it. Take fattoush/fattoushie. If you don't have sumac, you might as well choose another salad (although you shouldn't worry, because there are plenty of Middle Eastern salads that don't require sumac).

But the good news is that sumac is relatively inexpensive and easy to find online, and once you buy it, you will start putting it on everything (popcorn, garden salads, grilled veggies, grilled meats, burgers, fish, cheese sandwiches, lentil soup...). When I want to treat myself, I like to shop at the Spice House (my top recommendation), which sells phenomenally high quality goods at a very reasonable price. If you can find it in a Middle Eastern grocery store, it will be even more affordable. The market near me sells sumac for a couple dollars for a decent-sized bag.

sumac 3