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Does anyone have experience trying to form a curry with nut starch?

Can I make it work at all? Will I need less oil because the nut carries some of it's own?


Background for this:

For the last few years I've been making a Japanese style curry using the "fry flour and spices, then slowly add liquid while stirring" approach, and I have found the results very satisfying, and would like to share them around.

One possible target for this largess is trying to avoid flour in her diet, and my better half suggested substituting nut meal.

I'm a little worried about nut meal being too course to form the proper emulsion, but if I blend it down too much I'll have nut butter instead.

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Good question, I've wondered the same about using peanuts in a Thai penang curry. –  yossarian Oct 6 '10 at 20:31
    
Unless I get some feedback, I'll probably just try it in the next few day and report back. –  dmckee Oct 6 '10 at 20:32
    
I would suggest that anything that works for British curries might work for Japanese curries (There seems to be a lot of british influence in those curries, oddly). I would also consider using a very fine buckwheat flour, although I've never used buckwheat. –  Arafangion Oct 6 '10 at 22:06
    
don't forget to give an answer with your findings! –  yossarian Oct 6 '10 at 22:08
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I think it may work in some sense, but the results will be pretty different. Nut butters don't have a lot of starch in them. They thicken a liquid just by dispersing their solids. So 1 tablespoon of nut butter isn't going to have near the same thickening power as 1 tablespoon of flour. If you add enough to thicken it substantially, it will taste strongly of whatever nut you use (which may be good).

If your friend is specifically trying to avoid gluten, there are many other things you could use to thicken your curry. Rice flour would be an excellent choice, or cornstarch, or xanthan gum.

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It should, of course, be mentioned that the cornflour, if used, should be pure. Some "cornstarch" products contain gluten, according to some of my friends who avoid gluten. –  Arafangion Jan 21 '11 at 11:16
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Second attempt:

Start with raw almonds, blanched and peeled, and food processes them to a very fine meal (I needed about 1.5 cups of nuts to make it work in my food-processor so the excess has been sealed and popped in the refrigerator). I never got it to turn to butter just sticky, fine meal.

Substitute the almond meal for flour at 4 to 1 (that is for recipe calling for 2 tbsp of flour use 8 tbsp of almond meal.

The result did not have the ugly color of the first experiment, though it was still a bit darker than the flour based curry. The texture was smooth on the tongue this time (you must get the meal very fine!) and nearly as think as the flour based recipe. The eye could still detect some grain structure, but it didn't detract from the experience of eating the dish.

The taste of toasted almond was detectable in the dish, but set off the usual flavors very nicely. However, the pure bulk of almond meal employed diluted the spiciness somewhat: you might wast to ramp up the hot a little.

I'm still considering trying hazelnuts, but I'm pretty happy with what I've got so far.

First attempt.

The substitution was fine meal made from raw almonds using about twice as much as the flour it was replacing (taking Michael's thoughts about starch levels into account). The results were mixed: grainy and a slightly unappetizing, nearly black color. The sauce gelled a bit at first, but lost the proper consistency sometime after I had half the usual amount of liquid added. Despite these short comings, the flavor was very nice.

I'll probably take another crack at it soon, and plan three adjustments from tonight's attempt:

  • peel the almonds---I think the skins played a major part in the color situation
  • grind the meal finer still, it may have to be butter
  • increase the amount a bit more
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