To many, curry is a highly-seasoned sauce mainly as a powder sitting on the shelf when foods need a lift. To get the most out of curry powders they are best when the spices are freshly ground or incorporated into a paste with onion, garlic, fruits and vegetables as commonplace as apples, carrots and, as exotic as tamarind and pomegranate.
The era of curry powder
For as far back as modern cooking is concerned, when making any form of stew, curry powder (akanzali) was sine qua non-in the preparation. No cook would do without obunzali.
Over time, one did not have to be a genius to realise that most curry powders in Uganda constitute a strong dosage of turmeric and food colour plus the ubiquitous flour, all are nothing to write home about.
Food additives have been around and today they form an integral range for any modern-day cook. Royco, a product of Unilever and a food additive needs no introduction whatsoever in Uganda.
After many years of Royco Mchuzi Mix on the market, to keep up with the times, the makers decided that the loyal customers deserved an upgrade in the form of a healthier product. They came up with Royco Sundried mchuzi mix which sells alongside Royco Original. Besides having no artificial preservatives, it less salty with a new richer colour.
The cook off
On Saturday, we were invited to participate in a cook off competition between original Royco and Sundried Royco. Wisely, the two groups were both given the identical ingredients viz; an equal amount of tomatoes, onions, carrots, cilantro, cooking oil and salt. Each team was also given water to be used at one’s discretion.
Cooking is more than meets the eye; we have what one calls “having the hand or the touch”. In other words, give the two teams the same ingredients save for the Royco and the results were amazingly different. The sequence of frying the vegetables, where the onions fried until they were translucent and for that matter, were the tomatoes grated and how long did they cook? These factors taken into account were vital in the final outcome and no doubt worked in favour of the winner.
One of the team’s tricks
I was not privy to how the Team Original went about their business whereas I was much aware of the way things were with Team Sundried. The formula that they followed was as follows; first the onions were finely sliced and then allowing for 5 kg of pre-boiled meat (cooked and no salt added), no more than 200 grammes of cooking oil was used.
Method of preparation
In this, the onions were sautéed until they turned translucent and then the tomatoes (these were grated) were added and allowed to gently simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes before adding the rest of the vegetables.
A bit of water was added with three heaped capfuls of Royco Sundried and then this was thoroughly mixed before adding the meat. The whole concoction was brought to boil and then enough water was added to just barely cover the meat.
Over low heat and covered the stew cooked for 20 minutes and it was ready. As for salt, in as much as the Royco Sundried contains salt, a wee bit was added and in the end the taste was superb.
Just before serving they tasted and corrected the seasoning and served the stew with boiled rice.
Royco original was not only over salted but lacked sauce and in the end the overall consensus was that the Royco Sundried turned out to be the winner.