So I have to admit: When I first saw these colorfully packaged “Maya Kaimal” fresh Indian curry sauces (see photo above) about nine months ago in my local Gourmet Garage, my heart sank just a bit. Someone has beat me to it, I thought. Another curry aficionado has ALSO recognized the need for all-natural pastes that don’t come from a can — and they’ve gotten a head start. They’ll have cornered the market before Cracking Curry (which has humble dreams of selling a line of fresh Thai curry pastes) can ever become a reality.
Those fears soon turned to envious dismissal. “It can’t possibly be any good,” I assured myself, everytime I saw these plastic containers with their cheerful labels. “It’s too convenient.” All you have to do is add meat and vegetables — what’s next, curry TV dinners? “And there must be preservatives,” I sneered. A quick scan of the ingredients listed on the back of the containers, however, indicated the opposite: these curries appeared to be made from all-natural fresh ingredients. (Another dead give-away: the jars were stocked in the refrigerated section, not on shelves.) “They can’t be authentic,” was the next thing I told myself. Again, the cute-as-a-button labels only confirmed my worst fears: Cinnamon, toasted cumin, ginger, mustard seeds, even dried fenugreek leaves, for heaven’s sake. These were the real deal.
And then the day came: Depleted of my homemade Thai curry pastes, and in a pinch for time, I purchased Maya Kaimal’s Tikka Masala and brought it home.
We chopped up organic chicken breast, plus a little shiitake mushroom and spinach. Into the wok went the 15 ounces of Tikka Masala sauce. “It can’t possibly be enough,” I said, voicing yet another criticism. I stood at the ready to add water or tomatoes.
But the sauce filled the pan, and soon the familiar, delicious aroma of curry sauce filled the air. As it began to boil, I dropped in the chicken, letting it cook. Then the mushrooms and the greens. I stirred well, and let it simmer for a bit; then it was time to divide into bowls and serve with rice.
The dining companion and I munched away. I had a notebook handy for any comments (criticisms?). “Yum, I am going to have some more,” said the dining companion. “Me, too,” I said, with a sigh. That was just about the only thing written down.
It was that good. Tasty, spicy and comforting, just like a good curry should be. In the days that followed (keep in mind, it was the holiday season, which left me little time for trips to Chinatown to pick up ingredients to make my fresh pastes) we also sampled Maya Kaimal’s Coconut Curry and Vindaloo sauces — all delicious, easy to prepare and better than dishes we’ve had at Indian restaurants.
So now, in a reversal of my initial knee-kerk reaction, I’ve decided that Maya Kaimal is my new role model. She’s blazing trails, getting customers used to making curries at home, and giving them accessible but high-quality materials to work with. Besides, her focus is on Indian curries, as her father (according to her website) was raised in South India. Cracking Curry’s speciality is Thai cuisine. Isn’t there room for both of us in this world?
Let’s just hope she doesn’t start a line of Thai curry pastes.
Pictured below is Tikka Masala with chicken, mushroom and spinach.