Mamta's Kitchen

Forum Thread - Basic Curry Sauce 1 tastes bitter

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Tinuva, on 15/4/2015 11:14am

Hi,

I made this recipe last night and the end result looks just like the pictures shown in the recipe.

I used 2 large onions, 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 lump of ginger and 3 tsp madras curry powder.

I blitzed the onions, garlic and ginger in the processor and the fried them off (which took ages), added the spices and fried then added the tomatoes and cooked out for 5 mins or so.

I tasted it and it was very bitter so I added the salt to taste and this improved it somewhat but there is still a bitter after taste.

I intend to add chicken thighs tonight to make into a curry and was wondering what else I might add to remove the bitterness e.g. plain yoghurt/coconut milk/sugar...

Also has anyone any thoughts on where I might have gone wrong?

Thanks.

Mamta, on 15/4/2015 03:27pm

Hello Tinuva

I am not sure why your curry sauce is bitter. I have been making it for years, it has never been bitter. Bitterness must be from one of the ingredients. Taste them all one by one.

Possible causes;

Onion/garlic starting to germinate/going green or fried too long turning very dark brown and bitter.

Too much turmeric.

Madras curry powder is out of date/bitter. Taste it and see.

Spices got burnt somehow.

You can try yoghurt, but it should be thick and at room temperature. Skimmed milk yoghurt or very cold yoghurt added to a hot, tomatoey curry sauce can make it split.

You can try adding coconut milk, which is somewhat sweet. But do it with a small portion only, so you don't waste your coconut milk too.

Ground onions do take a long time to fry. That is why many chefs fry them first, make curry sauce and then blitz it. I just chop finely in a food processor.

Helen Bach, on 16/4/2015 11:07pm

If you used large onions, and blended them, they would form acid with the water in the onions. This is probably what you detected, rather than a bitter taste, which is rather rare in cooking.

I would recommend you use smaller onions, and cut them up rather than blend them, and put them in the oil as soon as you can. Add the garlic and ginger later.

HTH

wilsonz, on 21/4/2015 08:29am

I must admit I always fry my finely chopped onions before adding Garlic and Ginger, the onions develop a nice slightly sweet taste the longer you cook them Make sure they are not burnt though.

Dug, on 24/4/2015 12:50pm

In my experience, burning the spices when frying them is the commonest cause of bitterness. This burning gives off quite a distinctive smell which you learn to recognise after you've burnt enough. This allows you to catch the error early on. Once they are burnt, there's nothing you can do to save them - just throw it away and start again.

I also find that garlic burns quicker than onion, so I always fry my onions to 'nearly brown' before adding the garlic (I do the same with ginger and fresh chilies too). Burnt onion and garlic both have a bitter flavour.

wilsonz, on 24/4/2015 03:30pm

Agreed!

Caryhug, on 8/5/2015 01:21pm

I have just made this curry sauce base this morning. I doubled the quantities exactly.

I blitzed onions garlic and ginger in food processor till it still had some texture.

I heated the oil and fried cumin seeds then added the onion mix. WELL I was standing over the hob for AGES and the mix never did go golden, never mind brown. After over an hour I gave up and just continued with the recipe. The oil never did separate from the mix, the mix just got drier and drier so I thought I'd better continue with the recipe. When all ingredients were added it tasted like raw tomatoes and onions so I've now added a tsp of sugar, some seasoning and some chicken stock and I have left it to simmer for a while. I can't say I'm impressed with the flavour at this stage. Hopefully by the time I use it to make a meat curry it will actually taste like one.

wilsonz, on 11/5/2015 04:05pm

As I said I always cut my onions into a very small dice and fry them first, before adding the ginger/garlic paste.

Mamta, on 24/5/2015 08:05pm

I make this sauce very, very regularly and never have any problem with it. When Henry Dimbelby came around with his chef to try my recipe at Leon's, with chicken, they made it without any difficulty in my kitchen. This sauce is very basic, common and made in most Indian houses, with indiiividual variations. I don't know why you guys are having problems.

If you look at the pictures on this recipe, you can see that I am not making it up. It really does work. One thing is sure, if you grind the onions instead of chopping them, they do take longer to brown and perhaps need more oil. Indian restaurants sometimes blend the sauce after cooking it.

Declan, on 27/3/2016 08:28am

I have tried a few times to make this curry sauce. I have been pleased with the results but have always been guessing what temps to cook at as the recipe doesn't address this. I keep to a low to moderate heat but have yet to get the onions to brown.

Mamta, on 27/3/2016 11:26am

Hello Declan

Thank you for writing in. This is why I love to hear from people, they point out things that may be clear to me, but not to people who read and use my recipes. This helps me to make improvements all the time, so thank you :).

I have added this note at the bottom of the recipes;

**The heat at which I cook the curry sauce/masala mix depends upon what else I am cooking at same the time. If the sauce has my undivided attention, I will cook it at moderately high temperature, turning down when I need to. If I have other things cooking at other 3-4 cooking rings simultaneously, I will keep the heat to low, stirring from time to time, while doing other things.

Mamta

Declan, on 27/3/2016 02:32pm

Many thanks for the prompt reply. Making another batch right now :)

Helen Bach, on 28/3/2016 07:21pm

what I aim for is to drive off the water in the onions/garlic/ginger/chillies without browning the onions/garlic too much, so that there is no water in the oil at the end of the process. That way, flavours from the spices added have a maximum intensity, ensuring the spices do not burn.

I find medium heat effective, although this depends partly on the size and shape of the cooking pot! As an experiment, I once cooked onions in oil for 120 minutes without burning them, there was no water left in the onions, and only 0.17% in the oil (I measured it!)

James, on 28/3/2020 08:11am

The bitterness may be from the acidity from the tomato’s. Try adding 1 quarter teaspoon of bicarb soda to the curry sauce and it will neutralise the acidity.

Hope this helps.

Mel Jones Conwy , on 11/7/2020 03:10pm

Using a teaspoonful of salt when frying the onions will greatly reduce the amount of water. If you want a smooth curry sauce blend AFTER cooking onions, garlic ginger, and before adding other ingredients.

Mamta, on 11/7/2020 10:15pm

Thank you for that Mel Jones Conwy.

Mamta

Experience, on 22/8/2020 11:30pm

Too much cumin!

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