All curry spice mixes contain a few common spices, usually equal parts coriander, black pepper, cumin and turmeric. You find regional and familial variations throughout Asia, but each one originated by adding spices to taste, a technique you can use at home to re-create your favorite version or establish a family favorite.
The common spices in a base curry mix each impart a specific color and taste sensation: turmeric for color, pepper for heat, cumin for bitter smokiness and coriander for a floral, citrus-like taste. Regional variations of curry mixes stem from the base mix and have varying levels of sweetness, tartness and piquancy. Combine equal parts coriander, black pepper, cumin and turmeric to make a base mix.
For a mild curry mix with moderate heat but heavy on aroma, add equal parts fenugreek, cinnamon and cloves to the base mix. For an extra kick of spice and piquancy, add 1 tablespoon of ground ginger per cup of mix along with equal parts mustard seeds and smoked paprika or chili powder. For a sweet-and-spicy combination, add 2 tablespoons of garam masala per cup along with anise or fennel seeds.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.