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Indian curry gravy, hotel style. This is something new. But something old. Probably really old. And the start of something new. And wonderful. For me. And hopefully for you.

If you like big, bold curries. If you want curries with a lush sauce that makes your mouth dance. Then this might just be the thing you didn’t know you were looking for.

I didn’t know I was looking for it. Until I found out about it. Then I knew I had to have it. And I can’t believe how good it is.

Not your everyday restaurant style curry gravy

This is not how they make curries in restaurants outside India. This is how they do it in India. And it’s incredible.

Want to make curries like you get at your local takeaway? Like they do at every day Indian restaurants around the world.? Then there are many, many recipes on glebekitchen. I call those restaurant style.

This is something different. My guess is this is how they do it at posh restaurants. The best of the best.

I’m just getting started with this. And I’m truly excited. Inspired even. On a mission. This needs to be a thing. My thing. Your thing.

Bowlful of Indian hotel Indian curry gravy from the front surrounded by tomatoes on the vine.

What’s old is new

I have a theory. It’s just a theory. So if you’re going to shoot me down be nice. Or don’t. I can take it. But do try to be constructive at least.

I think this is how it’s been done in India for a million years. Well, maybe not a million. But a very, very long time. It’s closer to traditional technique. But adapted for restaurant style cooking.

Indian restaurant style cooking has it’s roots in the UK. At least the style I write about. Indians came to the UK working on ships back in the day.

Apparently they weren’t fans of life on the open sea. Because once they got to the UK they decided to stay rather than face the voyage home.

They needed work. And a lot of them wound up working in restaurants. Those sailors turned cooks became the architects of what is now mainstream Indian restaurant cooking in the UK.

Mainstream has it’s roots in hotel style

Overhead view of bold Indian hotel curry gravy surrounded by tomatoes, onions, garlic and green chilies.

The sailors started with what they knew. That’s only natural. And I’m guessing what they knew was curry gravy – hotel style.

As with all things, it evolved. The thick curry gravy became a thinner version. What’s now called base gravy. They dropped the deep browning of the onions. Because it was easier. Simpler. Less work. And it worked well. Everybody loved it.

It became mainstream. Global. People worked in Indian restaurants in the UK. They migrated around the world. And they took the technique with them. Everywhere.

Except for the mothership. They stuck to their roots. Kept the faith. And somehow nobody is blogging about it. Nothing on YouTube. In English anyway.

Until now. I’m picking up the torch. Because I believe. And like any zealot, I’m hoping I can convince you.

Naga chicken tikka curry in a carbon steel Indian styled bowl from the front.

This is curry gravy for bold curries

The nice thing about UK style Indian restaurant cooking is there’s only one curry base. It’s bland by design. One size fits all.

I’m a huge proponent of that. I like to let my curries speak for themselves. One base. Many curries. Easy. Simple. Just like those cooks in the UK figured out..

And I love what you can do with those techniques. Don’t get me wrong. It’s amazing. Seriously amazing. This intro to Indian restaurant curries is a great place to start.

But if you want to take it to the next level? Want to follow me down the rabbit hole? This is how. Curry gravy built for specific curries. Genius.

Not quite bespoke. But not off the rack either. The right tool for the job. How can that not make things better?

This is the bold version. It’s for madras. Garlic chilli chicken. Jalfrezi. Ceylon. For the curries where flavours are applied with a sledge hammer.

It is not for chicken tikka masala. Or korma. Or butter chicken. It is not delicate. That’s a different curry gravy. I’ll get to that. I’m just starting with the version that goes with my favourite curries.

Spoonful of Indian hotel curry gravy showing how thick it is.

This is a game changer

This is a whole different approach. And right now I’m think I’m probably the only one talking about it. So you are probably thinking this is crazy.

And it is crazy. Crazy good. If you want to push it. If you want to take it to the next level. Then think about trying this. It’s a whole new way of making restaurant style curries.

Except that it’s about as old as the hills. Doesn’t matter though. What matters is this curry gravy makes amazing curries. I’m not saying this way is better. But I am thinking it…

Ceylon chicken curry, dal , chapatis and cutlery table scene from the front.
Indian restaurant curry gravy with a spoon sitting in it. Surrounded by tomatoes on the vine, onions, green chilies and spices. From the front.
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4.95 from 17 votes

Indian curry gravy – hotel style

This is how they make the base gravy in fine Indian hotels.
Course stuff
Cuisine Indian
Keyword base gravy, Indian restaurant base gravy
Servings 8 cups
Calories 342kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 lbs onions chopped – use a food processor
  • 2 lbs fresh tomatoes chopped (or substitute plain canned tomatoes)
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 tej patta Indian bay leaf (optional)
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup garlic ginger paste
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 2 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 4 green chilies seeded
  • handful of cilantro
  • 1 cup water

Instructions

  • You need a lot of chopped onions for this. Do yourself a favour and use a food processor if you have one. Peel and half the onions. Cut each half into six pieces. Fill your food processor about 2/3 full and pulse around 5-8 times. You should have diced onions. Repeat until you have chopped all the onions.
  • As long as your food processor is out use it to chop the tomatoes (if using fresh). Easy.
  • Heat the oil in a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients.
  • Add the oil and heat over medium heat.
  • Once the oil starts to shimmer add the cardamom, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and optional Indian bay leaf.
  • Let the spices bubble for about 20 seconds and then add the onions.
  • This takes some time and attention. Cook the onions over medium heat. Stir every minute of so. You want them brown. Nice and brown. Not tan. Brown. Think French onion soup. This is going to take you around 30-40 minutes and maybe more. But you are doing it once. For 8 restaurant portions of curry. So it's under 5 minutes a curry. Totally worth it.
  • While the onions cook do the rest of your prep. Make sure the tomatoes are chopped. Cut your green chilies in half and seed them (use a spoon).
  • Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander and kashmiri chili powder in a bowl. Add about a 1/2 cup of water and stir to make a slurry. You may need to add a bit more water. Doesn't matter.
  • Once the onions are this nice creamy brown mess add the garlic ginger paste. Stir to combine and continue to cook for about two minutes.
  • Add the powdered spice slurry and the salt. Cook another 3 minutes.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, green chilies and cilantro. Simmer until the tomatoes are broken down. This takes about 10 minutes. The oil may have separated at this point. If it did, do NOT remove it. It's pure flavour.
  • Add a cup of water. Puree the hotel style curry gravy, whole spices and all. Yes. Whole spices get pureed. Use a blender. If it's too thick to puree add a bit more water.
  • You should now have about 8 cups of magic curry gravy to use in all sorts of curries.

Notes

This recipe makes enough for 6-8 restaurant sized curries. Make it and freeze it in one cup portions (237ml). That way, you can pull it out whenever you feel like making dinner.

Nutrition

Calories: 342kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 983mg | Potassium: 592mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1251IU | Vitamin C: 31mg | Calcium: 77mg | Iron: 2mg

76 thoughts on “hotel style indian curry gravy

  1. Hi Romain,

    Fascinating post, I can’t wait to get started on my first batch.

    Is this used interchangeably with curry base? If so, how do I use it since this makes 1 cup servings and most of your restaurant style recipes call for 2 cups of base.

    Barry

    • Have to say I’m pretty fascinated myself. It’s not the same as regular curry base and the techniques are not the same. If you try a regular restaurant style curry recipe you will wind up with one very thick, overpowering curry.

      I had to post this first to lay the groundwork. The next post will be the first of many hotel style curry recipes. Sorry to make you wait.

    • I don’t want to over-promote it but I am having great success with this. Recipes are coming just as fast as I can get them out!

  2. Hi Romain

    I’m going to make this tomorrow, will it freeze?

    I can’t wait to try this in your first curry.

    I’ve tried most of the curries you’ve posted using the original curry base and techniques and they are magic.

    Please hurry with the first recipe.

    Ian

    • It will freeze. I will update the recipe to reflect this. I meant to say that – just slipped my mind. The first recipe is coming next week!

  3. Wonderful news, my curries are fantastic, have not served a mediocre one to my family yet, think I’m in love with you xxx.

    • So sweet. This one will be a fun new way to cook curries I think. And it’s even easier once the curry base is done.

  4. Hi Roman

    Thank you for sharing this amazing aromatic recipe
    Combination of all the spices is really aromatic.

  5. Cant wait to make this. There are more steps than your Restaurant Style curry base – does this mean the finished curry will have less steps? I love making your recipes but find my stove a mess afterwards!

    • The beauty of this approach is the curry gravy is already full of the wonderful Maillard flavours so you don’t have to crank the heat when you add the curry base. And you don’t add it in stages. So less steps that way and way less splatter. I’d still wear old clothes but it isn’t the full on mess like regular restaurant style cooking.

  6. Thank you, Romain!
    This recipe looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it. Your recipes are the best and have really lifted my curry making game. Looking forward very much for recipes to use with this (you’re such a tease!). Again, many thanks.

    • Don’t mean to be a tease although I have to say it’s kind of fun:-) I will publish some recipes as quickly as I can. I was working on the first one tonight as a matter of fact!

  7. Hi Romain
    It is so exciting, I can’t wait for the recipes that I can use this gravy for 👍👍👍👍

  8. This approach is inspired. Your communication and passion for the subject, as well as the obvious quality of the recipes, deserves a wider audience.
    Jalfrezi recipe with this base please!! Or (please God) a Jhaaldaar…..

  9. Hi Romain
    Made the gravy the aroma is exquisite and it tastes fantastic. Can’t wait for next week.

    Ian

  10. Hi Romain, the recipe says it makes about 8 cups. I’ve ended up with about 2.8 litres which I think is about 12 cups. It seems quite thick though. How much will each curry recipe use?

    • The only thing I can think of is I browned the onions longer than you did? Doesn’t seem likely as I know you can cook so I’m really at a loss.

      Each restaurant sized portion will require one cup so 8 curries per batch.

      • Solved! My apologies, the problem was that the graduation marks on the inside of my cooking pot are so wildly out as to be laughable. On decanting the curry sauce into my usual tubs, hey presto! There was almost exactly 8 cups worth.

  11. Do we really need this ? Surely , base gravy will cover most sins. Now getting in to the realms of BIR discussions , which I know you dislike .

    • Base gravy is a fine thing. Think of this as master class.

      But as long as you are making dishes you are happy with, you are where you need to be!

      I always want to do better so I’m off on this mission! My goal is simply to help people make the best food they possibly can. Maybe some day you’ll join me. Or not. Doesn’t matter. What matters is you enjoy what you cook.

  12. This looks fantastic, can’t wait to try some recipes with it. Anything that expands our knowledge of Indian cooking is a beautiful thing!

  13. Oooh, Romain! I made a batch of this loveliness last night and I have to say it’s just fantastic! It is now sitting in my freezer in batches screaming to be used. Awaiting further instruction, sir! xx

  14. Another advantage to this way of cooking is that it will be easier to scale up recipes. The need to have high heat in order to get the Maillard reaction moving along is one the factors that makes cooking for a croud using curry base difficult – most home stove tops don’t have the burner size and output to cook more than a portions at once.

  15. Hi Romain
    Lovely recipe (and even better results). Please keep your posts coming. They are inspirational
    Michael

    • Thank you Michael. I published a Ceylon chicken curry recipe that makes use of the hotel style curry gravy this morning! Many more to come.

  16. Made this the other day and it tastes pretty good on it’s own – My wife asked if we could just have some of the sauce for dinner!

  17. Having just made up my second batch of this already, I think you may have just had the ultimate compliment from my wife! Despite feeding her endless curries recently and the house now permanently smelling an Indian restaurant she has just come out to the kitchen spooning out the remains of the pot after I had decanted it into portions – like a child licking the remains of a cake mix out the bowl! The new sauce has definitely been approved!

    • That is just absolutely awesome. I may be coming up with the ideas but you are the one making them for her so I think we can share the credit here!

      My house smells like an Indian restaurant as well at the moment – FWIW. But I’m really having fun with this so I’m not worried about it:-)

  18. This is delicious gravy. Going to try it with the green Chili and chicken. Used 2 cans of drained , diced tomatoes and worked well. Only ended up with 5 cups but no big deal. Only slow boat to China is browning the onions. Took a good hour and a bit. I have tried using a pressure cooker and baking sofa as per some of the Modern Cuisine techniques, but while caramelized the texture is wet and unappetizing. So, will keep on stirring! Thanks for the great posts.

  19. Hi Been using your Recipes for the last few weeks, absolutely amazing, won’t be ordering Indian takeout again. Making the curry gravy today, looking forward to tomorrow for the garlic chilli chicken
    Keep these amazing recipes coming
    Thanks from me a my family for re- inventing curry night.

    • You are very welcome. I am happy to hear that curry night is alive and well! I will certainly keep the recipes coming.

  20. Hi Romain
    We are great fans of your recipes and have made many of them repeatedly (I particularly like your the Pathia and the Saag dishes). I have been cooking Indian food for many years, always trying for that elusive ‘restaurant taste’ I used to use Pat Chapman’s books which were pretty good to be fair, but you have hit the nail right on the head with your ‘system’.
    I used to be friends with an indian chef, Jaz, and on his night off some of the lads and I would go around the town with him, ending up back at his restaurant after hours, where he would try to teach us how to cook. That is where I learned a lot of tips, like how to pre cook meat and even that raw king prawns are ‘butterflied’ and deep fried for a couple of minutes. As I recall, his method was much the same as yours although in addition I do remember him adding a spoonful what looked like bread dough. He said it was made by cooking down pureed onions on a very low heat for a long time. It tasted soapy.
    Anyway I digress. Your new ‘hotel style’ curry gravy is an absolute triumph. I have already tried the Ceylon Chicken and am doing the green chilli one tonight.
    Finally, I think the presentation of your recipes on this site is exceptional.
    Have you ever considered a book?

    Regards Andy

    • Hi Andy,

      I’m very happy to hear that you are enjoying the recipes on glebekitchen and especially glad you are trying the hotel style approach. I’m really excited about this approach myself.

      Jazzer’s likely added some bunjarra (a fried onion paste) that would have added additional depth of flavour. His must have been a pretty good restaurant indeed.

      Thank you for suggesting that I would be good enough to author a cookbook as well. Glebekitchen is actually my hobby. I have a job in the real world so while the idea of a cookbook is fun I really don’t have the time it takes to commit to a project like that.

  21. For years I have been searching for some authentic indian style recipes and like they say ” all good things come to those that wait “. I have tried several of your recipes and there isn’t one that’s disappointed me even to the stage where my husbands now saying we will never have to go to an indian restaurant again !

    Tomorrow I am making your new hotel sauce base along with a couple of the recipes. I wondered if you were able to help me out with a recipe for methi lamb?

    • I’m delighted to hear its working out for you!

      I can put methi lamb on the list for sure. It won’t be immediate as I have a few on the go but it will come.

  22. A game changer! For the purposes of all your recipes you please remind me what constitutes a Cup? How many millilitres?
    Adore Glebe Kitchen 😘

  23. Hi.
    I absolutely love making your curries, there are some wonderful tasty recipes that actually work unlike a lot available out there.
    Question: in this curry gravy you say to seed the chillies, is this really necessary or does it just reduce the heat?
    Also can I leave out the cardamom as I don’t like the taste, maybe it’s from biting into whole ones, or can I substitute something?
    Keep the excellent recipes coming, you’ve been our saviour during lockdown.

    • Chili seeds can be bitter and this is exacerbated by pureeing them. That’s why I leave them out.

      Leaving the cardamom out will change the flavour of the gravy but if you don’t like cardamom then I don’t see any harm. Different but tasty to you is better than accurate and not tasty to you I would think.

  24. I’m new to Indian cooking but your recipes are so much better than any Indian food I’ve had in restaurants. My question is our grocery stores don’t carry some of your ingredients but I’ve driven to Austin to find almost everything but I can’t find Jwala peppers anywhere. Is there a substitute chile? I can easily get Hatch green chile, jalapeno, poblano, serrano, and shishito. The recipe for Hotel Style Indian Curry Gravy lists 4 green chilis seeded. What chile do I use for this recipe? Thank you so much for taking the time to post recipes. Your photography entices me to try so many new recipes.

    • Haha. I’ve never looked for Indian in Austin. When I’m there I’m chasing Mexican ingredients to bring home and stuffing my face with brisket. You could seed out two jalapeños to replace the 4 jwala called for in the recipe.

      And for the record, I am super jealous that you can get hatch chilies.

  25. Hi Romain thanks for this superb gravy recipe. I bought a new stock pot yesterday specially for it then made an occasion of the process chopping everything by hand. Then stirring, stirring, stirring to get that deep brown onion stage just right, the result is alchemy! Now will it be Lamb Madras or your Ceylon recipe tonight….decisions!
    Thank you for transforming the way I approach my Indian cooking, the compliments I receive are really down to you!

  26. If time is not an issue, wouldn’t it be beneficial to let the gravy simmer for as long as possible (or a least a couple of hours) in step 13?

    • I don’t think it would make much of a difference. It’s already well cooked and the flavours are well integrated at the point you puree.

  27. Also, do you think the same high amount of oil is really required in this as in the restaurant style base? I mean, as long as the onions get browned in the beginning shouldn’t that be taken care of?

  28. The recipe states that it produced 8 cups of gravy. The actual dish recipes (Ceylon chicken, for example), says to use 1 cup gravy for 2 servings. That would mean 16 portions per batch of gravy, right?

    But this text says one batch of gravy serves 6-8 persons. It doesn’t add up to me. Am I reading it wrong?

    Sorry for the barrage of questions the last few days!

    • No problem re: barrage of questions. Delighted to help.

      I can’t find anywhere that says 6-8 people. I see 8 cups in the recipe, and 6-8 curries in the notes. In any case, 1 cup is right for one recipe of the hotel style curries that each serve 2 people so you could feed up to 16 people with one batch of hotel gravy.

  29. So, chopped tinned tomatoes. To strain or not to strain? Do I include the juice? I ask because the fresh tomatoes that we get here in uk are not the greatest so tinned might be better. Or should I stick with fresh anyway. So many questions! Any thoughts? By the way, I think this is the best blog that I have ever come across. Bang goes the diet…!

    • Just toss them in juice and all!

      Thank you for such a nice compliment and I’m sorry for the diet (but only a little:-).

      • Brill thanks! Just made a couple of ‘nearly restaurant style curries’ and they were amazing so can’t imagine how good hotel style will be. Just one last question (promise!) Do you even blend the cardamom pods, cinnamon bark and Tej Patta? I presume so but not sure if my blender can handle it!

  30. So this one is a little hard to rate on it’s own, since it’s not really a dish in it’s own right. But the ceylon chicken that it helped produce was just great.

    It took me SIGNIFICANTLY longer to fry the onions than the recipe stated, though. I was at it for over an hour before they were properly browned, despite going hard on the heat. I will try some of Kenji Lopez Alt’s techniques for faster onion browning next time.

    • I bumped the time up a bit on the browning step but it really depends on your setup and where you have the heat set. I have experienced significant differences from batch to batch myself.

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