How to make South African curry

How to make South African curry

Curries come from many countries and cultures, so it’s no surprise that South Africans have created their own version. While everyone has their own tips and tricks to making the perfect curry, here are some basics to help you master this versatile dish.

What is South African curry?

Two of the most famous types of South African curries are Durban curry and Cape Malay curry. They can be quite similar; but the way they’re seasoned is the differentiating factor. Durban curries tend to be spicier with an emphasis on curry powders and tomatoes, while Cape Malay curries are milder and favour spices such as cardamom and cinnamon.

What do I need for a curry?

The aromatics you need include cinnamon sticks, cloves and cardamom, while ground spices masala, chilli powder, turmeric, coriander and cumin. You can also use curry powder, which is a mix of the above powdered spices, but it is best if you use the spices individually so you can control the flavours and heat better. You also need onions, tomato, and no curry is compete without garlic and ginger.

How to make a basic curry

Whether you’re making a vegetarian or meat curry, the basics are the same. The cooking times will differ depending on which meat or vegetables you cook. It’s always best to monitor your curry closely while cooking so you can make adjustments as you go along.

  • Heat some oil in a pot, then add the aromatics. Fry for a few seconds to flavour the oil. Add sliced or diced onions, ginger and garlic and fry until golden brown. Always make sure your onions are cooked properly before moving on to the next step.
  • Add the spices to the pan and fry. Make sure you fry the spices thoroughly, though make sure they do not burn. You can add a little water while they fry if they catch on the bottom of the pan. Fry for a few minutes.
  • Once the onions are soft and golden, add your main ingredient and cook. If you’re making a meat curry, cook the meat until soft before adding any vegetables.
  • Cover the pan and simmer for around 20–30 minutes. Add a little water if the curry catches. Once ready serve with rice, roti or naan.


Useful tips

The more you make the curry, the more you will develop your own style, tips and tricks. Here are a few we have learnt from our experiences that may help you.

  • Add powdered spices to chopped tomato before adding it into the pan. This will prevent it from burning.
  • If you’re adding potatoes to a meat curry, add half a cup of water to the curry to help it cook better.


Deena’s tips for Durban curry

Deena Naidoo, restauranteur, chef and first winner of MasterChef South Africa, says that the perfect Durban curry is created when a cook has a passion and knowledge of what should go into the dish. His top tips are:

  • Use a heavy-based saucepan.
  • Make use of good-quality spices from reputable brands.
  • Cook over a moderate (not high) temperature.
  • Add your spices with a small amount of water at a low temperature.

Fatima’s tips for Cape Malay curry

Cook, TV personality and author Fatima Sydow says the key to the making a good curry is using the best and freshest ingredients, including A-grade meat and potatoes. “The potatoes should melt in the mouth when you eat it. You know your curry is done when it’s been slow-cooked and you don’t see any onion left, only a rich, beautiful gravy.” Her tops tips are:

  • Get the best kind of spices for your curry. Quality spices mean you will get a flavourful and delicious curry every time.
  • Always use fresh garlic and ginger for your curry. Peel it, then chop or grate it just before use.
  • Don’t be afraid to use whole spices like cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks and even cumin seeds.
  • Fry onions for about 20 minutes over a medium heat, add a little water and then add the whole spices.
  • For added depth of flavour, fry the onions slowly. When you add your spices, make sure the cook through properly.

Ready to make your own? These are some of our favourite curry recipes.

Mince curry with parathas

mince curry with parathas

Find the recipe for mince curry with parathas here.

Oxtail-and-vindaloo curry

oxtail and vindaloo curry

Find the recipe for oxtail-and-vindaloo curry here.

Indian lamb on the bone with pineapple-and-coriander raita

Find the recipe for Indian lamb on the bone with pineapple-and-coriander raita here

Cass Abraham’s Cape Malay lamb curry

Find the recipe for Cass Abraham’s Cape Malay lamb curry here.

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    Tshehla Musa Vilakazi
    April 5, 2022

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