Top 21 Popular Types Of Curry To Try

Top 21 Popular Types Of Curry To Try

17 Noodle Dishes & Types Of Noodles In Malaysia You Must Try Reading Top 21 Popular Types Of Curry To Try 18 minutes

These Are The Types Of Curry You Absolutely Must Try Or Learn To Cook

Curry, a vibrant, sometimes savoury, and sometimes creamy, aromatic dish beloved by millions worldwide. It’s one of those rare dishes that retains a single name but takes on many different forms depending on the country and culture in question.

It’s name doesn’t indicate just a single culinary creation, but rather a rich tapestry of flavours, spices, and cultural heritage. Much like how you have the classic curries made in the kitchens of India, to the creamy, coconut-infused curries of Southeast Asia, the very term “curry” is but an umbrella for a vast array of soups, stews, and dishes that each have their own distinct character and history.

While curry was believed to have originated in India, the term “curry” isn’t actually from the Indian languages of Tamil and Hindu. Instead, it is believed to be a derivative of kari, which means “sauce” in Tamil.

With a combination of that meaning and how curry comes in many forms today, we now have what is said to be the common meaning of curry: “a food, dish, or sauce which is seasoned with a mixture of pungent spices”.

Which is why today we’ll embark on an exploration into the diverse world of curries, all to uncover the top 21 types of curry you can and absolutely must try in Asia.

Top 21 Types Of Curry To Try, From Classic Indian Curries To Malaysia’s Coconut Milk-Based Curries, And More

Chicken rendang in the Cosmo Wok.

1. Rendang

Rendang originated from Minangkabau in West Sumatra, Indonesia, but now it holds a special place in the hearts of both Indonesians and Malaysians as a traditional curry dish. It’s commonly served during festive celebrations such as Hari Raya and ceremonial occasions like weddings.

The key ingredients for rendang are coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal, kerisik, garlic, turmeric, ginger, and dried chillies which are all slow-cooked with a protein like beef or chicken in a large wok like the Cosmo Wok or pot like the Cosmo Casserole, until the curry is almost dry. It’s a dry curry that boasts a rich, complex flavour profile that includes spicy, savoury, and slightly sweet with notes of roasted coconut from the kerisik.

Rendang is best enjoyed with steamed rice, ketupat (rice cakes wrapped in woven palm leaves), or lemang (glutinous rice cooked with coconut milk in bamboo tubes).

Malaysian Kurma curry.

2. Malaysian Kurma

You’ll commonly see Malaysian kurma in Malay-run eateries with its creamy, yellow-ish hue. But did you know that this dish has its roots in Mughal cuisine? This creamy curry is made with meat like chicken or beef, potatoes, and tomatoes, with a mixture of coconut milk, coriander powder, cumin, fennel powder, ghee or cooking oil, and candlenuts to thicken the sauce and add a hint of nuttiness.

All in all, Malaysian kurma is a mild, creamy curry with a subtly sweet nuttiness that is a popular choice amongst those who don’t enjoy spicy curries. Some of the best ways to enjoy Malaysian kurma is with white rice, roti jala, or naan.

Fun Fact: Some liken the Malaysian Kurma to a heartier and richer version of the classic ABC Soup because of its similar main ingredients of chicken, potatoes, and tomatoes. The only differences are the diverse mixes of spices and the exclusion of carrots in Malaysian Kurma, which are heavily present in ABC Soup.

Assam Curry with stingray.

3. Assam Curry

Assam curry is hugely popular amongst the Malay and Nyonya communities in Malaysia. It’s a uniquely tangy curry made from a combination of tamarind paste, turmeric, galangal, belacan, dried and fresh chillies, curry leaves, tomatoes, and onions which serves as the base for its curry paste. This particular combination gives it an incredibly tangy flavour profile with a low degree of spiciness, topped with a distinct sourness from the tamarind.

You’ll regularly find assam curry cooked with fish as its main protein, with the choices of fish typically being the stingray or the Spanish mackerel (ikan tenggiri), alongside the usual vegetables of okra and eggplant to complement the curry’s texture and flavour. Assam curry is traditionally served with white rice to complement its complex and robust flavours.

Chicken Kari Kapitan

4. Kari Kapitan (Nyonya Curry)

Kari kapitan is a unique Nyonya curry dish that is a fusion of Chinese and Malay culinary traditions unique to Malaysia’s Peranakan community. You’ll commonly find it served with chicken as its main protein in Malaysia, where it is usually called “Ayam Masak Kari Kapitan”, which essentially means chicken cooked in kari kapitan style.

It’s cooked using coconut milk and a paste of blended spices and aromatics such as ginger, galangal, lemongrass, turmeric, and the lesser known but fundamental ingredient - shrimp paste, otherwise known as belacan. Some recipes even include candlenuts and kaffir lime leaves to enhance its flavour and texture. That said, the delicious kari kapitan is best enjoyed with plain and simple white rice.

Butter Chicken. Photo by Alberta Studios.

5. Butter Chicken

Butter chicken is perhaps one of the best curries out there for those who prefer mild curries, or those who are new to Indian cuisine. This curry dish originated in Delhi, India in the 1950’s at the famous Moti Mahal restaurant with the intention to curb wasting leftover tandoori chicken. The result? Adding the said tandoori chicken into a creamy, buttery tomato sauce which is now a staple of Indian cuisine globally.

But these days, butter chicken’s key ingredients typically include yoghurt-marinated pan seared chicken, butter or ghee, heavy cream, tomato puree, and spices such as garam masala, chilli powder, cumin, and turmeric. Some of the best pairs to the creamy butter chicken are warm naan bread, basmati rice, and the classic plain white rice.

Chicken Tikka Masala. Photo by Prabal Pratap Singh.

6. Tikka Masala

Enter one of the world’s most controversial curry when it comes to its origins; the Tikka Masala, famously known as Chicken Tikka Masala for the protein that is typically cooked with. The creation of tikka masala is often attributed to Indian chefs living in Great Britain, but many assume that this dish originated in India. No matter where it came from, it’s undeniable that the tikka masala is one of the most popular Indian curry dishes to date.

Think of it as a cousin to the butter chicken, only spicier with richer aromatics. The main ingredients of tikka masala include yoghurt-marinated boneless chicken, tomato puree, cream, and a blend of spices such as Kashmiri red chilli powder, garam masala, turmeric, coriander powder, cumin, ginger paste, garlic paste, and fresh green chili peppers. Similarly to the butter chicken, the tikka masala sauce is also best enjoyed with naan bread, basmati rice, and white rice.

Saag vegetable curry. Photo by Sutee Pheera.

7. Saag

If you thought curry dishes are typically found in red or yellow hues, think again. Saag is a unique green vegetable curry that originated from the northern Punjab region of India, and is a staple in Pubjabi cuisine. 

Saag typically refers to any leafy green vegetables, but the saag curry usually contains a mixture of blended spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, fenugreek leaves, cooked with heavy cream, yoghurt, green chilies, ghee and spices such as coriander powder, cumin, garam masala, and turmeric. 

Saag is commonly cooked with cubed paneer (cottage cheese) where it is known as saag paneer, and is best enjoyed together with makki di roti (cornmeal flatbread), naan bread, basmati rice, and white rice which complements its rich, earthy flavour and slight aromatic bitterness.

Palak Paneer. Photo by Kanwardeep Kaur.

8. Palak

Palak is often confused with saag because they simply look quite alike. But what separates these vegetable curries are the vegetables that go into it. While saag contains a mixture of blended greens, palak typically only contains spinach and that’s because the word “palak” essentially means spinach!

This popular Indian dish is also regularly served with paneer where it is called palak paneer. It’s made only with blended spinach, cumin green chillies, ground cashews, garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin seeds, and heavy cream. All in all, palak paneer is a relatively healthy dish that is best enjoyed with naan, roti, basmati rice, and white rice.

South Indian Fish Curry.

9. South Indian Fish Curry

Popular in Malaysia’s Indian restaurants and the coastal regions of South India, the south Indian fish curry is a deep red, spicy, bold, and sour curry that offers a spicy yet refreshing take on curries.

The traditional recipe typically features fish like mackerel, tilapia, snapper, and barramundi, and it is made from a masala paste mixture of onions, ginger, garlic, cumin, tomatoes, chilli powder, turmeric, and fennel seeds, then complete with tamarind for its signature sour hit. While rare, some Indian restaurants do cook it with coconut milk for a dash of creaminess.

South Indian fish curry is commonly served with white rice in a thali and appam (Indian pancake made from fermented rice batter) to balance its robust flavours.

Mutton Indian Korma.

10. Indian Korma

Indian korma is essentially the original version of the Malaysian kurma that originated from the Mughal Empire in India as a royal dish. What separates them are fundamental differences where tomatoes are never used in authentic Indian korma, and instead of coconut milk, yoghurt is used to thicken and add a depth of creaminess to the curry. Not forgetting the addition of garam masala in Indian korma where it’s absent in Malaysian kurma!

How it’s made depends on the region. South Indian korma uses creamy coconut milk and omits brown onions as an aromatic whereas north Indian kurma uses yoghurt with the addition of brown onions. 

That said, the mainstays of Indian korma are always chicken or mutton as the main protein, coupled with a nut and seed paste of cashews, almonds, and onions. It is then cooked over low heat with other essential aromatics like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, chillies, and garam masala. This creamy, mild, nutty, and subtly sweet rich gravy is then enjoyed with naan bread, paratha, or rice to complement its richness.

Keema Curry. Photo by pelican on Flickr.
Keema Curry. Photo by Pelican on Flickr.

11. Keema Curry

Keema curry is a unique one because it features minced meat instead of the whole meat chunk frequently found in popular Indian curries. This also ties back to its name keema which means ground meat in Hindi.

It’s primarily made with ground meat such as minced lamb, mutton, or chicken, then cooked with peas and potatoes in a spiced curry sauce made out of garam masala, cumin powder, coriander powder, and turmeric. You’ll also find beef keema curry in certain regions of India where beef is consumed. 

Keema curry is often eaten with pav (soft Indian bread rolls) which makes it similar to a burger albeit with loose minced meat over a patty, with roti similarly to a burrito, or as a filling for samosas. That said, it also goes deliciously with freshly steamed rice for a more filling and comforting combination of minced meat curry and rice.

Vindaloo curry. Photo by stu_spivack on Flickr.
Vindaloo curry. Photo by Stu Spivack.

12. Vindaloo

The Vindaloo is a rich, fiery curry from the state of Goa in India that has its base origins in the Portuguese dish that was brought over during the days of the Portuguese colonisation - carne de vinha d’alhos, which is a dish made with wine and garlic-marinated meat. Today, the vindaloo curry is known as one of spiciest Indian curries in almost every Indian restaurant thanks to its sharp, tangy heat, making it a true test of one’s tolerance to spicy food.

Vindaloo typically consists of pork as its main dish, but other common variations include chicken, beef, or lamb. The meat is then cooked in a vindaloo paste of ground coriander seeds, cumin, heaps of dried red chillies, vinegar, ground mustard seeds, black pepper, turmeric, garlic, and ginger. Palm sugar is typically added in to reduce the pungency of the garlic and ginger while retaining its natural heat.

The combination of spices and aromatics makes vindaloo a truly aromatic dish with a deliciously complex depth of flavours. Which is why it’s best paired with plain basmati rice or a simple flatbread like naan to balance its intensity.

Mutton Rogan Josh. Photo by Alberta Studios.

13. Rogan Josh

You’ll often see Rogan Josh in the menu of your nearest local Indian restaurant and it’s no surprise because this curry dish is a staple in India’s Kashmiri cuisine that is traditionally served with rice or naan bread. Despite what most may think, Rogan Josh is not named after a person because “Rogan” means clarified butter, oil, or red in Hindi, and “Josh” denotes passion, leading to the meanings of “fiery” or “hot”.

True to its name, the Rogan Josh is a robust and aromatic red curry with an upper-moderate level of spiciness and oil-based sauce. It’s primarily made with braised lamb chunks cooked in a curry gravy of browned onions, yoghurt, garlic, ginger, and aromatic spices such as dried chillies, cloves, bay leaves, cardamom, and cinnamon. However, modern variations are said to use curry powder, paprika, or chilli powder for the heat and flavour.

Devil's Curry. Photo by Cloudywind on Flickr.
Devil's Curry. Photo by Cloudywind on Flickr.

14. Devil’s Curry

The devil’s curry, also known as curry Debal, of Malaysia’s Kristang (Portuguese-Eurasian community) culinary heritage is an incredibly spicy red curry with a bite that is especially popular during Christmas.

This curry’s main ingredients typically include pork or chicken as its main protein, which is cooked with a curry paste made out of fresh and dried red chillies, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, galangal, turmeric, shallots, mustard seeds, and turmeric. It’s then flavoured with vinegar to give it its signature sharp tang which adds to its fiery nature, which makes steamed rice its best pairing.

Bunny Chow. Photo by Hammersmith & Fulham Council Photostream.

15. Bunny Chow

I think Bunny Chow is truly an apt name for this curry because it has a spicy bite and is served in a semi-hollowed quarter loaf of white bread which soaks up its flavourful sauce. Reminds you of a literal bunny, anyone? Well, the Bunny Chow is a South African fast food curry that originated from the Indian community in Durban, South Africa, which is why it’s also sometimes known as the Durban curry.

Bunny Chow is traditionally a dish of spicy curry made with meat like chicken, lamb, or beef, cooked with chickpeas, potatoes, and Indian aromatic spices such as curry leaves, curry powder, minced ginger, minced garlic, paprika, onions, tomatoes, cardamom pods, and cayenne pepper.

Thai red curry

16. Thai Red Curry

Thai red curry is also known as Gaeng Phet in the Thai language. It’s one of the most popular dishes in Thailand, characterised by its creamy red hue which comes from the red chilli peppers used in its curry paste.

The base of this curry, the red curry paste, consists of red chillies, garlic, lemongrass, shrimp paste, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, and galangal. It is then cooked in coconut milk alongside protein such as chicken, beef, or pork and sometimes sliced onions, bamboo shoots, and bell peppers.

Despite its seemingly fiery appearance, the Thai red curry is a tamed and creamy red curry that goes best with jasmine rice to complement its creaminess for a truly comforting dish.

Thai green curry.

17. Thai Green Curry

Thai green curry, known as Gaeng Keow Wan in Thai which translates to “sweet green curry” stays true to its name as a comforting and vibrant curry with a moderate level of spiciness. The green curry uses a paste made from green chillies, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal which gives it its distinctive green hue. 

Much like the Thai red curry, the Thai green curry is also cooked with coconut milk alongside chicken, fish, or prawns and vegetables like eggplant and peas. It’s more aromatic than its red curry counterpart, but milder in flavour, making it a great accompaniment to steamed white rice or rice noodles.

Thai Yellow Curry

18. Thai Yellow Curry

Out of the three Thai curries, the Thai yellow curry is known as the mildest one with origins derived from Indian cuisine. The spices it uses are closely similar to those found in Indian dishes such as cumin, coriander, and turmeric, which gives the curry its signature yellow colour.

Other ingredients found in the Thai yellow curry typically include curry powder, cayenne pepper, coconut milk, potatoes, onions, and palm sugar, with a protein like chicken or beef. This mild curry is best enjoyed with steamed rice or fermented rice noodles known as khanom chin.

Massaman Curry

19. Massaman Curry

Massaman curry is a special type of curry that was listed as the “most delicious food ever created” in 2021 by CNN Travel under its “World’s 50 Best Foods” article. Why special? Because it’s a fusion of Thai, Persian, and Malay influences that reflect Thailand’s spice trade.

The massaman curry is particularly prevalent in Southern Thailand thanks to its unique blend of flavours. It’s typically made out of cumin, star anise, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, mace, chilli peppers, lemongrass, galangal, shrimp paste, coriander, and more, making it one of the most complex curries in the world with an incredible depth of flavours.

It also contains coconut milk or coconut cream, potatoes, onions, sometimes peanuts, and a type of meat which is commonly chicken, but some use beef. The rich, slightly sweet, and mildly spicy Massaman curry is best enjoyed with rice which complements its exciting flavours.

Japanese Curry Katsu. Photo by Jazheel Inocencio.
Japanese Curry Katsu. Photo by Jazheel Inocencio.

20. Japanese Curry

This may come as a surprise, but the Japanese curry, also known as “Kare” is Japan’s national dish. Curry was first introduced to Japan during the Meiji era between 1969 to 1912 by the British who had adopted curry from their Indian colonies. It has since become the country’s national dish and a beloved comfort food commonly made in homes and served in curry houses.

Japanese curry is typically mild and sweeter than Indian curries because it is made using a roux-based sauce of curry powder. It is then cooked into a stew with carrots, potatoes, onions, and bite-sized meat chunks such as chicken, pork, or beef. Some even add apples!

Its thick, stew-like consistency makes it the perfect accompaniment to steamed calrose rice, and it is sometimes served with a deep-fried breaded cutlet like pork katsu and chicken katsu (chicken katsu curry rice anyone?).

Fish Amok. Photo by DESTINATION-NEW

21. Amok

Amok is a classic Khmer dish from Cambodia that is often served during special occasions, not to mention that it’s also a source of national pride.

It’s usually made with fish, but having said that, there are also variations that use chicken or tofu as the main protein. The chosen protein is then steamed in a thick coconut milk curry paste made out of lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and turmeric which are wrapped in banana leaves before it is steamed in a coconut husk.

This creamy, earthy, and aromatic dish is commonly served with rice or eaten on its own similarly to Malaysia’s otak-otak dish.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.