Chef loves turning on the curry festival heat

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Curry chef Arunkumar Asharikkandy… “Nothing tastes better than an authentic and delicious goat curry.” Photo by Ana Stuart

INSPIRED by his mother’s cooking as a child in Kerala, India, Canberra chef Arunkumar Asharikkandy has made a career from his love for curry and is excited to share his food, for the fourth year, at this month’s World Curry Festival in Civic.

Arunkumar, the owner of Garnish of India, in Civic, was one of the main sponsors for the first World Curry Festival in the ACT and says he loves sharing his curries there each year.

“The curry festival gives me the opportunity to serve our Canberra community with a variety of Indian curries,” says Arunkumar, 47, of Gungahlin.

“I enjoy when people come to the stall to taste and then appreciate my curries.”

Growing up, Arunkumar says he would hang around the kitchen and watch his mother cook and from then on all he wanted to do was cook.

He became a chef at 18 and has worked in several states of India such as Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Chandigarh-Punjab as well as Singapore and has been working in Canberra for 10 years.

Arunkumar says his all-time favourite dishes are still inspired from his childhood, which include crab, prawn and goat curries.

“I grew up in a place surrounded by ocean, so seafood was always my staple food from childhood,” he says.

“Crab and prawns were regularly cooked at home, which made me fall in love with these dishes.

“I also love red meat especially spicy goat curry, because nothing tastes better that an authentic and delicious goat curry.”

Garnish of India will be one of 30 stalls at the World Curry Festival in City Walk from Friday, July 13 to Sunday, July 15.

FESTIVAL founder and chair of the Canberra India Council Deepak-Raj Gupta describes the event, which was born out of love for curry and culture, as “a celebration of good spicy food”.

With a focus on street food for this year’s festival, Deepak-Raj says there will be different fusions of cuisines of different regions of the world, which are not on the regular menu at restaurants.

“This event features stalls representing various authentic curry flavours from regions across the world such as Asia, Europe and Africa,” he says. Across the three days there will also be a variety of live entertainment such as Bollywood or African-style dance, belly dance and folk dance.

“Another program at the festival is the ‘Chilli Eating Competition’, which has gained popularity over the years with increasing brave participants and amused onlookers,” Deepak-Raj says.

Chef Asharikkandy’s top tips to make a curry great:

  • Always use fresh ingredients.
  • Use the right amount of spices, for best results grind your own spices.
  • For better texture and flavour cook curries slowly at a low temperature for a long time.
  • Use meat with bones to give the curries more depth and flavour.
  • Garnishing with spices and herbs at the end gives the dish a magical taste.

World Curry Festival, City Walk, Civic. noon-9pm, Friday, July 13; 11am-10pm, Saturday, July 14 and 11am-6pm, Sunday, July 15.


Garnish of India’s rogan josh. Photo by ANA STUART


Chef Asharikkandy says: Lamb rogan josh is from the Jammu and Kashmir region of India and consists of pieces of lamb with a gravy/sauce flavoured with ginger, garlic and aromatic spices such as cloves, bay leaves, cardamom and cinnamon. Its characteristic deep-red colour traditionally comes from the dried de-seeded Kashmiri chillies, however the flavour is mild with a beautiful aroma of spices rather than the heat of chillies, which makes it suitable for anyone.

The key to making authentic rogan josh is a blend of whole spices, which is what gives this curry its unique taste.

Lamb rogan josh is best eaten with rice or naan (Indian bread).


Preparation: 15 min > Cooking: I hour> ready in:1 hour 15 min.


  • 2 1?2cm fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 275 ml water
  • 10 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1kg boneless lamb shoulder
  • 10 whole cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 10 whole peppercorns
  • 2 1?2cm cinnamon sticks
  • 4 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 4 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1?4 teaspoon garam masala (Indian spices)
  • fresh ground pepper


  1. Put the ginger, garlic, and 4 tablespoons of water into the blender. Blend
  2. well until it’s a smooth paste.
  3. Heat oil in a wide, heavy pot over a medium heat, brown the meat cubes in several batches and set to one side.
  4. Put the cardamom, bay leaves, cloves, pepper and cinnamon into the same hot oil, stir once and wait until the cloves swell and the bay leaves begin to take on colour.
  5. Now put in the onions. Stir and fry for 5 minutes until they turn a medium brown colour.
  6. Put in the ginger garlic paste and stir for 30 seconds.
  7. Add the coriander, cumin, and salt. Stir and fry for 30 seconds.
  8. Add the fried meat cubes and juices.
  9. Stir for 30 seconds, now add 1 tablespoon of yoghurt, stir until well blended.
  10. Add the remaining yoghurt, a tablespoon at a time, in the same way. Stir and fry for another 3 minutes.
  11. Now add 275ml of water and bring to the boil, scraping all the browned spices off the sides and bottom of the pot. Cover and cook on low flame for an hour (or until meat is tender.).
  12. Every 10 minutes give the meat a good stir. When the meat is tender take off the lid, turn the heat up to medium and boil away some of the liquid.
  13. Sprinkle the garam masala and black pepper on top for finishing.


Chef Asharikkandy says: Goat curry is known for its style of spicy cuisine. Originating in the Indian sub-continent it has become popular, not only within Indians but all over the world. This simple yet delicious version of goat curry is more delicious when served with plain rice, salad and raita.

This goat curry with Indian spices results in a perfectly tender, juicy and flavourful curry if cooked this way.



  • 2kg goat pieces (with bone)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 green cardamoms (crushed)
  • 4 to 5 cloves (crushed)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 onions
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh indian chili (green)
  • 2 cup tomato Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Turmeric Powder
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 2 tsp pepper powder
  • Fresh coriander leaves
  • Water 8-10 cups


  1. Clean and wash goat meat. Drain water and set meat aside.
  2. Heat oil in pot. Add cumin, cardamom, cloves, and bay leaves.
  3. Mix for 1 minute. Add finely chopped onion.
  4. Mix until the onion turns light brown.
  5. Add ginger garlic, chili paste and cook until the raw smell disappears.
  6. Add goat meat and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. Add salt, pepper, turmeric powder, red chili powder and coriander powder.
  8. Combine well and add tomato sauce.
  9. Cook until the tomatoes turn pulpy and oil separates from the masala/ gravy.
  10. Add 8-cups water and mix well.
  11. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes more, and then add 2 cups of water. Stir well.
  12. Taste and adjust salt and seasonings.
  13. Transfer the masala into the pressure cooker and cook for 4 whistles 14. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. (The mutton should be cooked until tender and juicy).
  14. Once the pressure is released, mix gently
  15. Add garam masala and freshly chopped coriander leaves for garnishing


Chef Asharikkandy says: Butter chicken, which is also known as Murgh Makhani, is a mildly spiced and slightly sweet dish.

Originating in Delhi, the capital territory of India, Arunkumar says it’s one of India’s best-known and loved dishes and has become famous all over the world as the best Indian curry.

It is called butter chicken because it is prepared in makhani (butter) gravy, which uses butter and cream as the main ingredients in the dish.

Like many other curries, the secret to a good butter chicken is the gravy or commonly known as sauce. The extensive use of spices delivers complexity and depth to the sauce, onions and tomatoes add sweet notes and the finishing touch of butter and cream ensures the mixture is creamy and smooth.

“If you are looking for some mild and delicious Indian food or trying an Indian food for the first time, utter Chicken would be the best choice,” he says.

And its best tasted when eaten with rice, naan or roti (Indian bread).


Preparation: 10 min > Cooking: 30 min > ready in: 40 min.


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 40g butter
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed or chopped
  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons natural yogurt
  • 1 cup (250ml) cream
  • 1 cup (250ml) tomato puree
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 500g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 3 tablespoons of water


  1. To make the sauce: heat half of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Fry onion until soft and transparent.
  2. Stir in butter, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, half the garam masala, the chilli powder, cumin and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  3. Add tomato puree, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Stir in the cream and yogurt. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Heat the rest of the oil in a large heavy fry pan over medium heat. Cook chicken until lightly brown, turning once, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat and season with the rest of the garam masala powder and stir in a few spoonful of sauce, and simmer until liquid has reduced, and chicken is no longer pink. Spoon the cooked chicken into the sauce.
  6. Mix together the cornflour and water, then stir into the sauce. Adjust seasonings and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

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Danielle Nohra
Danielle Nohra is a "CityNews" staff journalist.

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