« Balsamic vinegar (Recipe: my favorite green salad, with tomato, cucumber, nectarines and olives) {vegetarian, gluten-free} | Main | Granulated sugar (Recipe: peach vanilla muffins) »

Curry powder (Recipe: stir-fried curried beef with tomatoes and peas)

Stir fried curried beef with tomatoes and peas 

When someone mentions curry powder, I think of Indian food.

Don't you?

We need to think again.

Most Indian cooks create their own curry-powder-like blends, portioning out their favorite spices from a masala dabba, adjusting the balance to the needs of a particular recipe. There's no one "curry powder" in Indian cooking. The curry powder we buy -- the "convenience" blend from the supermarket or spice merchant -- has no place in most Indian kitchens.

Many cuisines incorporate the component flavors of curry powder into their own dishes; Indian spices traveled with merchant ships to the Caribbean, Europe, South Pacific, Japan and China. And eventually they made their way to my own kitchen, where both sweet and hot curry powders have a place on the spice rack.

What is curry powder?
A blend of spices, including turmeric, Moroccan coriander, cumin, ginger, fenugreek, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, and cayenne red pepper.

How/where to store:
In a tin with a tight-fitting lid, on the spice rack; or in the freezer, for up to one year.

More facts about curry powder, and ingredient photos, in The Perfect Pantry:
Curry powder (Recipe: curried squash, apple and pear soup)


Stir-fried curried beef with tomatoes and peas

Another wonderful recipe very slightly adapted from Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, by Grace Young. I had some lean sirloin to use up, and I cut it into small dice. Flank steak is the better choice, and with peas in the freezer and a full complement of Asian condiments, the meat and tomato are all you need to purchase for this recipe. Serves 2-3 as a main dish with rice, or 4 as part of a multi-course meal.


12-16 oz lean flank steak
1 Tbsp finely minced ginger root
1-1/2 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
1-1/4 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp + 1 Tbsp shao hsing wine
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp + 1 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil (I use canola oil)
1/3 cup chicken broth or water
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp hot or sweet curry powder
1 medium ripe tomato, cut into chunks or wedges
3/4 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/4 tsp sugar


Cut the beef with the grain into 2-inch wide strips, then cut each strip across the grain into 1/4-in-thick slices. In a medium bowl, combine the beef, ginger, soy sauce, cornstarch, 1 tsp shao hsing wine, 1/4 tsp salt, and the black pepper. Stir to combine. Add 1 tsp of the oil, stir, and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the broth or water, dark soy, and the remaining 1 Tbsp shao hsing wine.

Heat a large flat-bottomed wok or skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot, swirl in the remaining 1 Tbsp oil, add the red onions and garlic, and stir-fry for 30 seconds or until the onion is wilted. Push the onions and garlic to the sides of the wok, and add the meat in the center. Spread the meat to a single layer, and let it sit, undisturbed, for 1 minute, until it begins to sear.

Sprinkle on the curry powder, then stir-fry 30 seconds or until the beef is lightly browned all over but not cooked through. Add the tomatoes and peas, sprinkle on the sugar and the remaining 1/2 tsp salt, and stir-fry 30 seconds or until well combined. Swirl the broth mixture into the wok and stir-fry another 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the beef is just cooked through and the sauce is slightly thickened.

Serve hot, over rice.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Curried green tomatoes
Cold curried orzo
Curried chicken wontons
African-inspired squash and peanut soup
Curried shrimp and pasta salad

Other recipes that use curry powder:
Orange lentil soup with curry powder and spinach, from Avenue Food
Japanese dry curry with soybeans or tempeh, from Just Bento
Trinidadian chicken curry, from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Curry carrot ice cream, from Not Eating Out in New York
Singapore rice noodles, from Tigers & Strawberries

Need more creative ideas for using tomatoes all year round? Get 25 Tomatoes, my e-book packed with fantastic recipes, full-color photos and a fun video tutorial. With the FREE Kindle Reading app, delicious tomato recipes will always be just one click away on any computer, tablet or smart phone. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


It's so true that curry powder is rarely found in an Indian kitchen, but it is certainly nice for convenience sake. Your food always looks so inviting.

There's no one "curry powder" in Indian cooking. One Curry Powder: That would be like all bloggers are alike ;-)
Looks heavenly.

A beautiful dish, and the blue trivet is breathtaking in this photo with the blue bowl!

Lydia, you'll think I'm crazy, but I roll out pizza dough very thinly, brush it with olive oil and sprinkle with curry powder, freshly ground black pepper, sea salt and dried oregano, then bake it until very crisp - the hubby and I can't get enough of it. :)

that pizza comment above me sounds so good! and thanks for the lil bit of history on curry, did not know all that. i assumed it was a staple in india.

My favorite blend is "madras". I use it as an all-purpose seasoning (not just for Asian cuisine) in polenta, corn chowder, tomato sauce...

This dish sounds wonderful. I love how the Chinese have incorporated this flavoring into so many dishes.

Thanks a lot for the information on curry powder. I haven't cooked with it a lot, and I always thought there was only one kind that was used in every Indian kitchen, I know, shame on me! This dish looks amazing. It's making me hungry.

I love cooking with curry powder and finding new uses for it! There's so much more you can do with it than just make Indian food.

This looks delicious, I would love to cook it.

Have a blessed afternoon :)

I've made my own curry powder before and found that it's distinctly different from anything I've bought off the shelf. Maybe not better or worse - just different. Like eating the same dish in a different restaurant.

The turmeric, aside from giving it that bright orange-y-yellow color, is also a great anti-inflammatory food.

Cookin' Canuck, I have several pre-blended curry powders on my spice rack. It's only recently that I've started to think of them as convenience foods, but that's what they are!

MyKitchen, I agree. I'd love to learn more about how to blend my own curry powders.

Kalyn, my husband Ted made the blue trivet (and a multicolored one), and he'll be thrilled that you noticed it. I have so many blue and white bowls that I use here on the blog, so you'll be seeing much more of that blue tile.

Patricia, not crazy at all -- I think it sounds delicious, a bit like the naan we get in Indian restaurants. Thanks for sharing your method.

Vanillasugar, every Indian cook I know has a masala dabba for mixing spices for curry. I have one two, but at the moment it holds spices for Mexican cooking!

Julia, I use the Madras blend also. It's the curry powder I first encountered in my mother's kitchen, when she had an adventurous cooking phase in the 1960s, and it's still a staple on my spice rack.

Ben, there's definitely some overlap with the spices used in the Mexican kitchen. Cumin, for example is fundamental to both.

Joanne, you're absolutely right. One of the reasons I started this blog was to give people recipes for the ingredients they always have on hand in the pantry. Curry powder is a perfect example of that.

Mari, it is delicious. Please try it!

Toni, thanks for the information about turmeric. It's the most recognizable of the spices that comprise curry powder, but it doesn't have much flavor. Nice to know it has healing properties.

I definitely associate curry with Indian food and Thai too. I don't know why I don't use beef more often in curries. Thanks for the delicious reminder, Lydia!

Hello Lydia,What a Beautiful Pantry! ;) Love the great introduction about 'Curry Powder',and the STIR-FRIED CURRIED BEEF looks absolutely mouth- watering:)

Happy to discover your blog,Cheers!

Susan, this is a great way to make a little bit of beef go a long way.

Aldy, welcome! So glad you found your way here.

thanks for reminding me about the curry powder I own! I used it last night to make a shrimp, peas, tomato "curry' stir fry! Turned out so delicious that I had the rest for breakfast this am! (weird I know!)

Yummy that looks perfect, i love trying out different curry's and dish's, and beef and tomato dish's are my favorite.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.