Curry powder, also known as masala powder, is a spice mixture
of widely varying composition developed by the British during the period of
British colonial rule in the Indian subcontinent as a means of approximating the
taste of Indian cuisine at home.
Masala refers to spices, and this is the name given to the
thick and pasty sauce based on a combination of spices with ghee (clarified
butter), butter, palm oil or coconut milk.
Most commercial curry
powders available in Britain, the U.S. and Canada, rely heavily on ground
turmeric, in turn producing a very yellow sauce. Lesser ingredients in these
Western yellow curry powders are often coriander, cumin, fenugreek, mustard,
chili, black pepper and salt.
It should be reiterated that curry powders and
pastes produced and consumed in India are extremely diverse; some red, some
yellow, some brown; some with five spices and some with as many as 20 or more.
Besides the previously mentioned spices, other commonly found spices in
different curry powders in India are allspice, white pepper, ground mustard,
ground ginger, cinnamon, roasted cumin, cloves, nutmeg, mace, green cardamom
seeds or black cardamom pods, bay leaves and coriander seeds.