Vadouvan, A French-Indian Curry Powder
Curry, to me, has always been something rather magical. My mom would throw down in the kitchen growing up, and, whenever she was making a curry, she would take out her spice daaba, a circular box that housed little cylinders within, holding tons of different spices. It was so mysterious to me at the time, the process of making a curry intimate, subjective, artful. She decided how much of one spice versus another – cumin, coriander, fenugreek – went into the specific curry. Tailored flavors.
For this reason, I pretty much never use pre-fab curry powders as I’ve mentioned in the past. EXCEPT, and this is a big one, when it comes to Vadouvan, a French-Indian style curry powder. Some believe the spice blend is from the Pondicherry region in South India where there’s a ton of French colonial influences. That’s unconfirmed, though, and vadouvan has popped up as a gourmet spice du jour here as well as in Europe.
Now, it’s not like you couldn’t also make this one on your own, but there are so many spices and quite a process involved. Garlic, shallots and onions give it a rounder flavor, ingredients like turmeric, fenugreek, cumin and coriander the signature curry flavor, curry leaves a delicious earthiness, and fennel seeds that licorice-like sweetness. To name a few….The spices are toasted before grinding and, in some, the onions/shallots fried before granulating. The result is a complex spice blend that is warm, a bit sweet, and a touch smoky.
The toasting of the spices takes away a lot of that raw flavor, so it’s good to go straight into yoghurt or an aioli to add incredible flavor. I love it as a dry rub on fish that I sear and finish with a bit of butter. Cooked up with onions and garlic, it’s delicious as a soup base for butternut squash or most other root veggies. I’m on a pot pie kick lately and have been debating throwing it into the mix for my next one. This blend is so versatile.
And, just for kicks, a picture of one of my dogs trying to get a little spice in her life…