Radius: Off
km Set radius for geolocation

Prepare your very own Durban Curry

Prepare your very own Durban Curry
The Spice Emporium is one of the oldest and largest stockists of authentic South African and Indian spices, rice, grains and more. Here they share some tips and advice on how to  purchase and make the most of your spices.

The Spices are an incredibly versatile addition to any pantry. With such a wide array to choose from (Spice Emporium stores stock over 100 varieties), where to begin can seem daunting. However, armed with some basic knowledge, you’ll find that cooking a curry is not only easy, it’s budget friendly and will open you up to a whole new culinary experience.

Keep in mind that not all spices are made equal, so we’ll share some of the tips and guidelines we’ve learnt in the 60 years of being in the spice trade.

The freshness and quality of spices play a big role in determining the not only the depth of flavour, but the quantity required – the better the quality of spices, the more potent they are, and the less you have to use. Fresh spices should

be pungent. 

Trust your nose… If you take a deep whiff of it and your face scrunches up (and perhaps your eyes even start to tear!), you know you’ve found a good spice! 

A palette for your palate… A good way to tell the quality of a spice is from its colour. Good quality spice powders are rich and vibrant in colour. For instance, if turmeric powder is made using fresh, Grade A-quality turmeric, the powder will naturally be a deep, golden yellow. However, if the turmeric is of inferior quality, when ground, it will be a dull yellow. 

Never better in bulk… It is preferable to buy small quantities of spices regularly, rather than in large quantities. Over time the spices begin to lose their flavour and colour. However, storing them in cool, dark place – in an airtight container like a masala dubba, can keep them fresher for longer. Remember that with good quality spices, a little goes a long way. 


Spices should only add flavour, so if your curry starts to thicken when you add your spices, it’s likely that a thickening agent like corn flour or rice flour has been used to ‘bulk-up’ the spices


It may be surprising to learn that a Durban curry, while having its roots in India, has developed and evolved into something truly native to South Africa.

When the first Indian indentured labourers arrived in South Africa in 1860, they had both limited means and access to a spices and ingredients. Using what they had, they created a new culinary language which lead us to the Durban Curry of today. An often fiery, boldly-spiced curry made red with generous usage of tomatoes, chilli powder and oil.

The spices may vary from dish to dish, but the most commonly used are:

Earthy, with a lightly bitter flavour, turmeric is perfect for adding an appealing golden colour.

Mustard seeds

Used for tempering, they add an interesting bite and fragrant aroma.

Whole Cumin (Jeera)

Distinctive in aroma, with a warmly bitter flavour, it is use for tempering.

Bay Leaf

Bay leaves add a sweet, savoury flavour to curries and when toasted in oil, one to two leaves are enough to flavour an entire dish.

Whole Cinnamon

When toasted in oil, the cinnamon adds spicy sweetness to the dish.


Used sparingly, cloves can add a unique flavour to the meal. Use too much and it’ll overpower it.


When toasted in oil, the cinnamon adds spicy sweetness to the dish.

Powdered Coriander (Dhania)

Made from the dried fruit of the coriander plant, it has a spicy nut-like flavour.

Chilli Powder

A little or a lot, every curry needs a bit of heat. It also adds redness to curry.

Garam Masala

An essential spice blend, made by blending ground cumin, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and more. Ubiquitous in its use, this complex and rich spice enhances the flavour of almost any curry. No two garam masalas are made the same, so keep this in mind when buying. Keep these spices in your pantry and you’ll be able to make almost any curry you wish.


3tbs oil
1 tsp mustard seeds 3 curry leaves
2 whole dry chillies


2 large tomatoes, liquidised and strained
1 onion finely chopped
1 level tsp turmeric powder
1½ tsp coriander (dhania) powder
½ tsp cumin (jeera) powder 1 tsp chilli powder
¾ tsp crushed green chilli
½ tsp crushed ginger
½ tsp crushed garlic Salt to taste
1 cup broad beans boiled until soft


1 tsp of fresh coriander, finely chopped
Pinch of garam masala


– Soak the broad beans overnight and drain.
– Boil the beans in 2½ to 3 cups fresh water until soft.
– Heat oil on medium to high heat. Add mustards seeds, when they begin to pop, add dry chillies, curry leaves and onions.
– Reduce heat and cook onions until transparent.
– Add the liquidised tomatoes and all remaining spices. Cook until tomato moisture has evaporated and thickened into a paste.
– Add the cooked beans (with the water) to the tomato mixture, add a little extra water if necessary.
– Cook until gravy has thickened. Garnish with fresh coriander and garam masala.

Serve with basmati rice, roti and papad.