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Thursday, 31 August 2006

Welcome to the REAL South Africa: The Curries of Durban - Page 2

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If you know anyone who has been to South Africa, they will probably have visited Capetown, Johannesburg and Kruger National Park, but it is highly unlikely that they would have visited the eastern port city of Durban, the biggest port in Africa. This city, more than any other city in South Africa, is where three major cultures have co-existed side-by-side for 150 years.  Zulus in beaded African headdresses, Indians in iridescent saris, and Brits in starched safari outfits



A typical Durban Curry is made in a heavy pan. First, onions are browned in oil, and then the curry powder is added, followed by garlic and ginger. The mixture simmers a little before the lamb, chicken, beef or fish and finally tomatoes are added. The pan is covered and the dish is left to simmer, bringing together all the flavors of this rich concoction.. Finally a little cilantro is folded in before serving.


The curry is usually served over white rice with condiments -- chutney, sambals and pappadums. Chutney is a fruit-and-onion-based preserve, often spiced with red chilies.  Sambals are small side dishes of chopped peanuts, grated coconut, various fruit chutneys, and sliced bananas Pappadum is  Indian bread made of ground lentils and chick peas. It is usually bought ready-made and then deep fried or grilled.


In the USA a casual invitation to friends would be, "Come over for a barbecue."  A Durban family would invite friends to "come over for curry,"  and they would sit by the swimming pool and serve the meal buffet style. Indians do not generally drink alcohol, but beer or a light, sweetish white wine is definitely a good accompaniment.


The best place to find the ingredients for an excellent Durban Curry is the Victoria Market.

Photo by Karen Tobia

In my youth this market was where most food in Durban changed hands, catering to British Colonials, Zulus and Indians alike with its encyclopedia of products and their accompanying tastes and smells.  In 1973 the Victoria market was damaged by fire and later rebuilt on a smaller scale. Today it caters more to tourists but it is still as colorful as ever but in a slightly more sanitized way. On the other hand there are still Zulu sangomas -- traditional healers selling very suspicious looking potions that would make Macbeth's witches jealous.



Every second stall within the Victoria market is selling curry.  The spicy blends of curry powder have very innovative names such as "mother-in-law’s tongue," "steak and chops," "chicken licken" and "green fish." The curry powders are piled into pyramids displayed in large white enamel bowls. The multiple mounds of the different blends have tones of brick reds, burned umber, and mustards. Here also curio dealers sell all sorts of products decorated with African beads, as well as carvings, brass goods and animal skins of all varieties.


Of course there are thousands of ways to make a curry, but what is the basic difference between a true Indian curry and a Durban Curry?  Durban Curry is much hotter and has more tomatoes.  To a Western palate the mix of a Durban Curry, although sometimes fiery hot, is much more sensuous and less restrained than its Indian cousin. When ideally cooked there is nothing more delicious.


(Page 2 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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