easy curry recipe technique – nearly restaurant style

If you want to make restaurant style curry but don’t want to spend all day prepping for it then this easy curry recipe technique is for you.

You will impress yourself. And your friends. Family too. It’s a different way to get to the same place. If you’ve ever wondered why your curries don’t come out like restaurant dishes read on.

This easy curry recipe is all about onions

Just about every Indian curry is about onions. They are the foundation. The spices make a curry sing but the onions are the heart. The soul. There’s no way to get around this. At least not that I’ve ever found.

I love homestyle curry. I grew up eating it. Homestyle recipes are about finely chopped onions. Slowly browned. For a long time. Like 20-30 minutes or more. Slow food.

Restaurants do it different. They use a thing called curry base. Or base gravy. Basically you boil a lot of onions to death. Add a few other ingredients. And puree. Like a watery onion soup that tastes vaguely of curry. And yet somehow that works.

They can crank out curries in under 10 minutes using this stuff. Worth looking into. But there’s a bit of a learning curve. This is how it’s done in restaurants.

In the middle there’s this easy curry recipe technique. A different way of doing it. Not one you’re likely to see anywhere else. I’m pretty sure I came up with it. A new take.

You may think I’m crazy. A lot of people do. But this works. And it works well. Before you write me off give it a go. Just once. Then decide.

I like making curries restaurant style. I go the distance. Often. But I like this easy curry recipe approach too. It’s easier. And it scales better than restaurant style cooking. It’s nearly restaurant cooking. Nearly restaurant style. That’s what I’m calling this.

Onion puree is the key

It’s not rocket science. I’m actually amazed nobody has come up with this before. It’s sort of like curry base. Except it takes around 15 minutes to make. Instead of a couple hours.

The onions need to cook down. For Indian that’s key. But how they get cooked matters a bit less. At least initially. You just want them cooked through.

So for this easy curry recipe I say nuke the onions. Yes, you heard me. Microwave them. For real.

It’s funny. To me anyway. I can’t stand my microwave. It’s a bad way of heating up food. And that’s its best feature as far as I can tell. Just not a fan.

For this it works. It’s actually the right tool for the job. Chop up the onions and toss them in the microwave. Until they are really soft. Around 10 minutes at about 70 percent power.

Let them cool a bit and toss them into the blender with some oil and water. Puree. And you have the base of nearly restaurant style cooking. In way less time than restaurant style curry base takes.

From here it’s pretty much restaurant style cooking technique

I have a few things I always do when I cook Indian. I want some oil in the pan. It’s really hard to cook Indian without it. You can spoon it off at the end if you want. But you need it along the way.

The order in which you add things is important. The oil goes in first. Get it to the point it shimmers. Then add any whole spices you may be using. Things like cloves or cardamom or cinnamon stick. Cook that until they crackle.

Larger bits of peppers, onions or chilies go in next. Toss them around in the oil until the onions soften or the peppers blister a bit. Just follow the recipes.

Garlic ginger paste is up next. Think about making your own. Garlic ginger paste keeps a while in the fridge. Toss it in. Cook it until it stops sputtering. You’ll see what I mean.

Bloom your ground spices in oil

Blooming your spices in oil is critical. Seriously. I question any Indian recipe that doesn’t include this step. It is fundamental. Blooming spices means cooking spices in oil. So simple. But so important.

Blooming gets rid of any raw spice flavours. Worth doing just for that. But it also gets all the oil soluble flavour compounds into the oil. And those compounds get spread around the dish. It’s just better.

Don’t take my word for it. Please. Google it. Check out Serious Eats. Or Cooks Illustrated. Or whatever other quality site you trust. I didn’t make this up. It’s food science.

It’s also why you need to have enough oil. If you don’t the spices will stick. Or worse. They will burn. Burn your spices and you will have to start again. No coming back from burnt spices.

Chicken madras done in the easy curry recipe style from above.

Next add your wet ingredients

You need to stop the spices from over-cooking somehow. And adding wet ingredients is how. This is where the onion puree comes in.

There should be a fair bit of free oil in your pan. Which is good. Critical really. You want to fry the onion puree. Just microwaving onions isn’t good enough. Not by a long shot.

This is where something else you should Google comes in. The Maillard reaction. More food science. Probably one of the most important bits of food science. This is the magic of browning. All sorts of wonderful flavours get created.

You don’t need to understand it. Just believe. It’s the magic that happens when heat hits sugars and amino acids. Onions, meat, mushrooms, bread. It’s all the Maillard reaction.

Add the chicken or lamb or beef

Nearly restaurant recipes are easiest with chicken. Chicken thighs in particular. You can chuck them in raw if you want. They will cook in the sauce.

Keep things a bit on the dry side to start though. Chicken throws a fair bit of liquid as it cooks. Tasty liquid. A little more flavour. Adjust for consistency at the end. Or cook your chicken first. Then it’s really restaurant style.

Shrimp – or prawns – work too. Just be very, very careful not to overcook them. It only takes a few short minutes to cook shrimp perfectly. A few minutes more and they are little shrimp shaped pencil erasers. Not so good.

If you are doing a lamb or beef it’s a little different. You are cooking almost to order here. Braising beef or lamb for a couple hours isn’t to order.

I tend to pre-cook my lamb and beef in a salty curried broth. Batch cook it and use my food saver to portion off enough for a curry. It freezes well. And it doesn’t take up a lot of room in the freezer.

I should really try this technique but cook the lamb or beef the whole way in the sauce. I will report back. It should work but until I try it there’s no guarantee.

Easy curry recipe finishing touches

The finishing touches come last. Lemon. Tamarind. Cilantro. Cream. Fresh tomato. Whatever little tweaks the recipe calls for. The tastes you don’t want to disappear into the dish.

A little garnish if you’d like and you’re done. Nearly restaurant style. From a standing start to the table in under an hour.

It’s not exactly the same as restaurant style cooking. And it’s not like homestyle curry either. It’s somewhere in between. Easy. And fairly fast.

It’s every bit as delicious though. Try it. You will be surprised. Especially if you’ve been wondering why your curries don’t taste like the ones they serve at your favourite Indian restaurant.

Who doesn’t want an easy curry recipe? With nearly restaurant results. It’s not a thing yet. But it will be. Try it.

Make the curries

Chettinad chicken

Chicken jalfrezi

Chicken masala

Chicken tikka masala

Chicken madras

Chicken saag

More coming all the time.

If you want to make Indian curry like they do in restaurants, this is how. Indian restaurant curry technique.

22 thoughts on “easy curry recipe technique – nearly restaurant style”

  1. Hi Romain, Happy New Year to you – where can I find the recipe for making the curry base “nearly restaurant “ style using the microwave for the onions ? Many thanks Rachael

    • Happy New Year to you as well. Apologies for taking so long – I was on a business trip this past week. Any recipe labeled 30 minute curry under the Easy Indian category will describe how to make the gravy.

  2. Hi Romain,
    Tried this technique recently and it was amazing, thanks! Have you tried adding the same spices (cumin, tumeric) and tomatoes as are in your restaurant style onion gravy to the onions prior to microwaving? Would that make it more like your restaurant style gravy or does it now work like that?

    • I’d be worried that the raw flavour of the spices wouldn’t get cooked out enough but I’ve never tried microwaving spices so I really have no idea. I think a bit of tomato and cilantro would work though. I am going to have to play with that. Thanks for the idea!

  3. Hi Romain. I made your Chicken Saag today. It was a life-changer! This microwaving the onions stuff is crazy genius! Can’t wait to try the others. Thanks so much! Do you think I could use paneer instead of chicken?

    • So happy to hear you’ve discovered my “nearly” restaurant technique. It’s a bit of a game changer.

      You can absolutely substitute paneer for chicken. Just add it in at the end to warm it through.

  4. Hi Romain,

    if I click on the link of “Chicken Saag” above (under Make the curries), it leads to the Chicken Madras recipe…regards!

  5. Hello Romain, you’re a wizard.
    I have another method of quick restaurant style sauce you might want to try using a pressure cooker instead of a microwave:-
    1. Fry your spices in the oil then add all the onions and fry off for a spell. Chuck in some fresh toms. as well if you wish.
    2. Add your water and pressure cook on high for 10 to 15 mins.
    3. Reduce pressure to zero and liquidise the mixture.
    4. Boil up without the lid and reduce to the desired consistency.
    5. Follow your techniques throughout.
    All this is done in the pressure cooker, no other pans needed.
    Blue Skies

    • I have not yet had a chance but I have no reason at all to doubt it would work. No guarantees as I have not tried it but I don’t see why it wouldn’t…

      If you don’t want to risk it why not try restaurant or hotel style?

  6. Hi Romain, I absolutely love your dishes.
    I have attempted, using your technique, a chicken rogan josh but I’d love to see your take on this.

  7. I would agree with Marius (“Easy curry recipe technique doesn’t print in a uniform way like your recipes do. I just like to keep things tickety boo when it comes to both recipes and techniques”). In my preferred browser, Seamonkey, “Print preview” shows just one page of copyright-related stuff and sixteen or so blank pages with just a header. The simplest way for me to get something printable is Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C, then open Word and Ctrl-V.

    • Again, this is an underlying WordPress functionality thing. I am afraid I am not in any position to modify the underlying platform. Perhaps you could simply bookmark the page? It’s not going anywhere:-)

  8. Hi Romain: Fast becoming a big fan of your recipes. But unfortunately, the format you used when posting your Easy curry recipe technique doesn’t print in a uniform way like your recipes do. I just like to keep things tickety boo when it comes to both recipes and techniques. Marius.

    • I have absolutely no idea why that is. The publishing tool behind it is exactly the same. Maybe it’s because there’s no actual recipe in this guide?

    • Haha. I left that out on purpose to keep things clear. The actual ingredients will be in the recipes this post is intended to help explain. You are quite correct, of course. If tomato paste or puree is included in a recipe it will likely be added immediately after the blooming of powdered spices.

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