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An Ode to the Durban Curry

If you can read this whole story without laughing then you’ve probably never tasted a real Durban curry. I was crying by the end…

This witty narration is probably fictional – it was doing the email rounds back in 2008, and I’ve no idea about the original author but whoever he or she is (or was) deserves an accolade for this one.

If you pay attention to the first two judges, the reaction of the third judge is even better. For those of you who have visited or lived in KwaZulu-Natal, you know how typical this reaction is!

Judge #3 was an inexperienced food critic named Frank, who was visiting from America.

Frank: “Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a Curry Cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last moment and so I happened to be standing there at the judge’s table asking for directions to the Beer Garden when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (South African Indians) that the curry wouldn’t be all that spicy and, besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted”.

Here are the scorecard notes from the event:

CURRY #1: SEELAN’S MANIAC MONSTER TOMATO CURRY
Judge #1: A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.
Judge #2: Nice smooth tomato flavour. Very mild.
Judge #3: (Frank) Holy shit, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out. I hope that’s the worst one. These people are crazy!

CURRY #2: PHOENIX BBQ CHICKEN CURRY
Judge #1: Smoky, with a hint of chicken. Slight chilli tang.
Judge #2: Exciting BBQ flavour, needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
Judge #3: Keep this out of the reach of children. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver! They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.

CURRY #3: SHAMILA’S FAMOUS “BURN DOWN THE GARAGE” CURRY
Judge #1: Excellent firehouse curry. Great kick.
Judge #2: A bit salty, good use of chilli peppers.
Judge #3: Call 911! I’ve located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drain Cleaner. Everyone knows the routine by now. Get me more beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I’m getting pissed from all the beer.

CURRY #4: BABOOS BLACK MAGIC BEAN CURRY
Judge #1: Black bean curry with almost no spice. Disappointing.
Judge #2: Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a curry.
Judge #3: I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out taste buds? Shareen, the beer maid, was standing behind me with fresh refills. That 200kg woman is starting to look HOT…just like this nuclear waste I’m eating! Is chilli an aphrodisiac?

CURRY #5: LALL’S LEGAL LIP REMOVER
Judge #1: Meaty, strong curry. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
Judge #2: Average beef curry, could use more tomato. Must admit the chilli peppers make a strong statement.
Judge #3: My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chilli had given me brain damage. Shareen saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from the pitcher. I wonder if I’m burning my lips off. It really pisses me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Screw them!

CURRY #6: VERISHNEE’S VEGETARIAN VARIETY
Judge #1: Thin yet bold vegetarian variety curry. Good balance of spices and peppers.
Judge #2: The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, and garlic. Superb.
Judge #3: My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulphuric flames. I am definitely going to shit myself if I fart and I’m worried it will eat through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that Shareen. Can’t feel my lips anymore. I need to wipe my ass with a snow cone ice-cream!

CURRY #7: SELINA’S “MOTHER-IN-LAW’S-TONGUE” CURRY
Judge #1: A mediocre curry with too much reliance on canned peppers.
Judge #2: Ho hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chilli peppers at the last moment. (I should take note at this stage that I am worried about Judge # 3. He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably).
Judge #3: You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn’t feel a thing. I’ve lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with curry which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava to match my shirt. At least, during the autopsy, they’ll know what killed me. I’ve decided to stop breathing – it’s too painful. Screw it; I’m not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air I’ll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach!

CURRY #8: NAIDOOS TOENAIL CURLING CURRY
Judge #1: The perfect ending. This is a nice blend curry. Not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.
Judge #2: This final entry is a good, balanced curry. Neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it got lost when Judge #3 farted, passed out, fell over and pulled the curry pot down on top of himself. Not sure if he’s going to make it. Poor man, wonder how he’d have reacted to really hot curry?
Judge #3: No Report

 

Editor’s note: There is actually an annual Curry Cook-off at the Royal Show in Pietermaritzburg around June/July.

A bit about Durban Curry

Durban (or Natal) curry developed into a traditional cuisine over 250 years ago, when the first Indians arrived on the shores of what was then South Africa’s Natal Colony in 1860.

Durban curries are mostly based on South Indian dishes and mostly consist of simple spiced lamb, chicken or vegetable dishes (with large amounts of ghee and oils), but also include very complex and elaborate seafood, chicken and lamb specialties (chicken and prawn curry is a KwaZulu-Natal favorite).

Bunny chow, a South African standard, has spread in popularity throughout the country and into other southern African countries and countries with large South African immigrant populations. It consists of either lamb, chicken or bean curry poured into a tunneled out (half or quarter) loaf of bread to be eaten with one’s fingers.

The roti roll is another classic takeaway curry that could either be a curry in a very flat roti bread (similar to a kebab bread) or the classic “chip, cheese and curry” roti which basically consists of fried chips with melted cheese and curry gravy rolled into a roti roll.