An Exploration of Southeast Asian Curries

Spices for an Indian goat curry.

Spices for an Indian goat curry.

Those of you who know me, or follow me on social media know I’m an avid home chef. I love to make elaborate home feasts, even if it means Karl goes hungry for a few hours. (And you wondered how I keep him so skinny, didn’t you!)

So it shouldn’t surprise you that this trip will be about food and cooking. The focus is purposeful, as Southeast Asia is a huge place and it’d be easy to just float from city to city without intent and leave without any real understanding of the host culture. 

I picked food because it’s something I’m naturally passionate about. It’s also something instantly relatable — everybody gets food. Visiting open markets are fun for tourists, not just because they’re colorful places to take pictures but also because markets tell you about people. You look at what’s on display at their market and instantly compare it your own at home. The quantity and display foods tells you what people eat (meats? fruit? or veggies?) and how often.

So I’ll be looking at everything I encounter through a food lens. And at the smart suggestion of my regional host and college friend Dominic, I’m narrowing it down one step further: an exploration of Southeast Asian CURRIES! After all, who doesn’t love curry?! 

Curry is a fun choice because it comes in so many varieties — red, green, yellow, massaman, Penang, Nonya, Indonesian. It can be served soupy or thick and gravy-like, with rice or with noodles, sometimes even with little fried crunchy bits on top, or in the north, in Chiang Mai, with pickled mustard greens. It just makes for a fun little study, something to attempt to become an expert on, in as far as one can become an expert in two months. I’ll also be taking cooking classes in most of the cities I’m visiting with the aim of learning native methods for preparing curries and curry powders.

You’ll notice that most of the places we’re visiting this summer — Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia — have distinctive curries. Singapore doesn’t have its own renowned curry, but it made the cut because the food is allegedly to die for (Chili pepper crab & pineapple tarts! Need I say more?), and also because I have several aunties who live there. I’ll also possibly have an opportunity to learn to cook from a native Singaporean, the mother of one of said aunties. 

So that’s a little preview of what’s ahead, hope you’ll come along for the ride! Stay tuned for pictures from our first day here. It includes, of course, an impromptu visit to a street market. And guess who immediately sampled the street food and who was too squeamish? Hint: his name rhymes with snarl…


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