Chaunk (curry tempering)

Aged 10 and feeling daring I told my mum I'd like a Vindaloo from the local Indian takeaway, instead of the normal Chicken Tikka. It blew my head off and took all evening to finish and I loved it and I thought it was brilliant. Dangerous food; What's a kid not got to love about it? 

Hooked ever since.

Chaunk, tarka, or the literal-ish translation 'tempering' is a hot oily mix of (mostly) whole spices. Made at the start and added to, or poured over hot dal at the last second, it's the foundation of a good curry.

  • Oil (Flavourless. Sunflower or vegetable, for example)
  • Black mustard seeds
  • Curry leaves
  • Ginger garlic paste
  • Cumin seeds
  • Chilli powder
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • Fennel seeds
  • Turmeric

These spices are typical of what I usually throw into the tempering, but it's completely up to you. Star anice, a cinnamon stick, fresh green chilli, substituting the garlic ginger paste for fresh and sliced, more garlic, no fennel seeds… It might not be authentic but go with what you have and what you like.

Fresh curry leaves are gorgeous. Aromatic, earthy, pretty, they make a curry. The dried variety pales in comparison but is still worth using if fresh is hard to come by.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Use more oil than you think is reasonable.

The oil is hot enough when the mustard seeds alarmingly start to foam and splutter and pop out of the pan.

Add a couple of spoonfulls of ginger garlic paste, and everything else. Again, in more quantity than you think, apart form the tumeric of which a pinch or two will do. Turn the heat down a little.

It's a quick, intense three or four minutes of crazed stirring and definitely not burning the spices, until your housemates, partner, goldfish and neighbours come in, salivating, and it's done.

1st September 2017

Category: Recipes