Curry recipes for all skill levels

An overhead shot of a Dutch oven filled with a stew
From store-bought powder to homemade spice mixes, curries are just the thing to warm up dinner on cool nights.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

On a recent rainy day, my friend Sonoko Sakai warmed up a pot of Japanese chicken curry to have for our lunch. While the rain drizzled outside, the curry simmered away in her clay pot. The spices, packed into her own homemade bricks, wafted throughout her kitchen, and by the time the dish was ready, I could barely resist the scent. Spooned over warm rice, it was the perfect lunch to warm our chilled, wet bones.

Sonoko sent me home with some of her curry powder that day, and ever since, I’ve been using it in all sorts of ways to add its distinct aroma to my meals. As a lover of placeless “curry powder” since I was a kid, I love cooking with it. Whether it’s the store-bought powder or a real, homemade, from-scratch spice mix, the melange of spices adds the kind of warmth that I want on these cool winter nights.

If I’m dealing with the powder, I like to use it in this easy Laotian fish curry made with coconut milk dyed orange from the red tomato paste and yellow curry powder. Or, I’ll make a batch of this curried couscous and cauliflower salad that’s wonderful to keep in my fridge all week long to eat with salmon, roast chicken or on a bed of salad greens.

For when I have a little more time on the weekends, I turn to curries that utilize whole spices in the mix. Badmaash’s Goan pork curry mix is teeming with chiles, cumin, coriander and turmeric as well as fragrant curry leaves and tart tamarind in the stew. And this turmeric and coconut clam curry blends fresh turmeric, lemongrass, galangal and Thai chiles with roasted shrimp paste for rich stew that has multiple layers of vibrant spice.


And for nights when I want to pull something cheesy and bubbly out of the oven for dinner, this curried cauliflower gratin fits the bill. The Cantal and Emmental cheeses that enrobe potatoes and cauliflower are spiked with vadouvan, a French version of our curry powder that’s very similar and can often be found in grocery stores (but if you only have regular curry powder, that works too).

Triple Cheese Curried Cauliflower Gratin

This dish is a riff on pomme dauphinois, a labor-intensive southern French classic of paper-thin sliced potatoes layered with Gruyère cheese, cream and garlic. To that base, add Parmesan and Cantal cheese, if you can find it, and cauliflower, and then spike it with curry leaves and vadouvan, a kind of French curry powder-ish spice blend that you should definitely find for your cupboard.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 4 hours.

Laotian Sheatfish Curry

As with most cooking in Southeast Asia, the aromatics in this curry are cooked in the fatty cream that rises to the surface when making fresh coconut milk. Using canned coconut milk is much simpler; just remember to refrigerate the cans overnight (or chill in the freezer for 20 minutes) to firm the fat at the top so it’s easy to scoop off when you open the can.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 40 minutes.

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Badmaash Goan Pork Curry

Toasting and blending your own spice mix ensures a fresh fragrance in the resulting curry. The aromas intensify when mixed with fresh chiles, garlic and ginger in a tangy marinade that soaks into fatty chunks of pork shoulder and belly over a day or two. After a long simmer in a caramelized onion and tomato sauce, the meat becomes tender enough to cut with a fork. Serve it with lots of basmati rice to soak up all the sauce.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 4 hours.

An overhead shot of a Dutch oven filled with stew and two plates with rice and the stew
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Turmeric and Coconut Clam Curry

This flavorful and light curry is based on a Thai curry that chef Louis Tikaram once served at E.P. & L.P. restaurant. Shallots, galangal, garlic, Thai green chiles, turmeric, shrimp paste, lemon grass and red dried chiles are sliced, chopped and roasted to create the complex flavor in the paste.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes.

Curried Couscous With Roasted Cauliflower

Curry powder seeps to the core of large Israeli couscous in this simple fridge salad mixed with roasted cauliflower. Serve it on its own or as a side to seared salmon or roast chicken.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 50 minutes.

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