Recipe: How to make the perfect Durban curry

by The Oyster Box Executive Chef Kevin Joseph

No visit to Durban is complete without enjoying a real Durban Curry.

Curry was introduced to the Colony of Natal over 150 years ago by indentured laborers who came from India, to work in the sugar cane fields. The word ‘curry’ comes from the Tamil word ‘kari’ which means ‘sauce’.

The unique flavours of Indian cooking, which were embraced by British settlers and the Zulus, have been developed over time to make the ‘Durban Curry’, famous around the world.

Durban curries, which are usually hotter, are coloured red with tomatoes, chilies and cayenne pepper. Expert curry makers from Durban boast that a typical Durban Masala curry powder has about 12 different ingredients in the blend. These include ground coriander, cinnamon, cumin, curry leaves, fennel seed, dried chilies and cayenne pepper, as well as ginger and garlic. The array of tasty Durban curries encompass many glorious dishes made from chicken, prawns, fish, beef and vegetables, but the most popular choice is lamb or mutton.

A typical Durban curry is made in a heavy pan. Onions are browned in oil, and then curry powder is added, followed by the garlic and ginger. This mixture is simmered before the lamb, chicken, beef or fish is folded in and then all the remaining ingredients are added. The pan is covered and the dish is left to simmer, bringing all the flavours together. Coriander is added just before serving. Durban curry is usually served over rice, with condiments such as chutney, sambals and papadums.

To pick up the essential ingredients for a Durban curry visit the Spice Emporium. This is the home of spicy blends of curry powders and traditional accompaniments. Although Durban curries can bring tears to the eye, there is always plenty of flavour in every dish.

My recipe for our Famous Lamb Curry

Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour

Serves: 4 people


  • 1 kg leg of lamb or shoulder (or 1 kg chicken), cubed
  • 75 ml oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (10 cm long)
  • 20 ml medium strength masala curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ml crushed garlic and ginger
  • 4 curry leaves
  • 5 ml whole fennel seeds
  • 250 ml water (one cup)
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 medium tomato, skinned and diced
  • Coriander (dhania) leaves for garnishing


  1. Washed cube meat and drain water.
  2. Heat oil and add diced onion, cloves and cinnamon sticks.
  3. Add the masala powder mix, stir and add meat to the pot.
  4. Add salt, garlic and ginger, curry leaves and fennel seeds. Stir all ingredients together.
  5. Allow to cool on a high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 30 minutes.
  6. As excess water and juices evaporate, add the additional cup of water, followed by the potato and tomato.
  7. When both meat and vegetables are cooked (approximately 30 minutes), simmer on high heat for 5 minutes.
  8. Garnish with coriander and serve with rice, roti and green salad.

Kevin’s curry powder mix is a carefully guarded secret but we can share what goes in it with you. As too the measurements… only Kevin knows!

For veggies you can substitute the meat with vegetables of your choice including cauliflower, cubed butternut, sweet potato, lentils, carrots, courgettes and more. One note – don’t add cardamon if you are doing a veggie curry!

The Oyster Box Curry Masala Mix (100ml):
Mild Masala
Medium Masala

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26 Responses to Recipe: How to make the perfect Durban curry

  1. Pingback: Africa Adventure Consultants - The Safari Journal

  2. David Rafferty says:

    love Durban curry and oyster box…
    the best of both world

  3. Vicks Naidoo says:

    I am now living in Australia and was from Tongaat. I am very familar with Oyster Box Hotel. I want try out your lamb curry recipe. My mixed masala does not have Aniseed, Cardamon and tumeric powder in the mix. Is it necessary to add these when cooking? Thanks and regards.

    • RCH says:

      Hi Vicks, We’ve checked with Executive Chef Kevin and he says don’t worry if you don’t have those three spices they are not essential, but if you can add them they will definitely enhance the flavour! You’ll have to let us know how you get on.

  4. Devandran says:

    Hi, I’m going to try this recipe. Hope all goes well!!! Trrying to make a great lamb/mutton curry with Life giving flavour!.

  5. Raymond says:

    Awesome curry Curry . Could be a little more hot ( spicy)
    I now live in Florida and first went to Oyster box in 1960. Have great memories of those days

  6. Pingback: Mine Magazine » Lamb Curry

  7. Lorenzo says:

    Hi from Miami
    I tried your recipe today along with my own “secrets” … worked out great
    been to Oyster Box many times

  8. Vicks Naidoo says:

    I notice that in your lamb curry recipe you add the tomato after the lamb and with your basic chicken recipe the tomato is added before the chicken is added to the pot.
    Is any reason for adding the tomato after the lamb in the lamb curry and the tomato before the chicken in the chicken curry.
    Does the tomato affect the softness of the lamb if added before the lamb in curry?
    Thanks and regards

  9. Thabani says:

    Nice recipe, can I subtitute thr lamb with beef?

  10. David Maguire says:

    I am a curry lover. Went to school in Pietermaritzburg 1n 70’s and always enjoyed curry but never learned how to make good curry till recently. I eventually got a recipe from a Muslim butcher to whom I supplied live chickens. His wife one day made me a wonderful chicken curry and the recipe was simple but delicious
    60ml oil
    100gr chopped onions
    2 green chilis
    1 tsp red chilli powder or mor if you like it stronger
    2 tsp jeera powder
    1 tsp turmeric
    2 cloves
    3 bay leaves
    Chop up chilies and onions. Heat oil in pot. Fry onions and chillis for 1-2 min. add the above spices and cinnamon bark fry on low heat for 3 min. Add 1 kg meat chicken/beef/mutton or other. and mix in with oily mixture. and fry/brown it a little for a few minutes on hot heat.
    Add garlic, ginger and a teaspoon of masala or Cartright curry powder and a can of peeled and chopped tomatoes(410gr) and simmer a while and add salt to taste. Simmer for 30 min. Dont allow it to stick on bottom of pot. If it is too dry add half cup water. If no canned tomatoes use fresh peeled toatoes.

    Very tasty….

    Ty it

    10cm cinamon bark broken into smaller pcs3 elachi pods (yellow ones)
    1 tsp grated ginger
    2 tsp crushed garlic (or 2-3 cloves of garlic)

  11. Lou Corbitt says:

    Hi there, I make a mean curry be it beef,chicken or lamb,but I can not get my curry gravy to look red,What is the secret?? Does curry powder lose its flavour after a time and just retain the burn ???

  12. Alvin Paul says:

    The Durban Indian curry that goes into the “bunnies” is influenced by the vindaloo’s of Goa. I have seen some cooks put in wine vinegar which adds a little acidity to the taste. The recipe above looks spot on as the addition of the aniseed flavours gives the curry another level of flavour. @ Lou curry powder and masala do lose their flavour over time. I freeze masalas and spices but for those fortunate to live near an Indian spice shop its best to use fresh spices.

  13. Bert Chapman says:

    Will certainly try this.

  14. Erica Platter says:

    kevin is a legend. As is his distinctive Durban Surf and Turf curry recipe shared in our book, Durban Curry, So Much of Flavour. If you are a Durban curry lover in exile, this book is available on Amazon!

  15. David says:

    I love the taste of curry,(I’m from Tongaat) but my mouth and stomach (peptic ulcer) can’t handle the heat. How can I make the curry very mild without losing the taste?

    • RCH says:

      Hi David,

      With this recipe, you should be okay – although there’s plenty of flavour, it won’t bring tears to your eyes in terms of heat. You can always pick a mild curry powder to use – that might help. Otherwise, adding coconut milk or cream to your dishes should help.


  16. Patricia Walsh says:

    Recently spent a weekend @ Ashford Castle !
    Wonderful venue and so looking forward to visiting other Hotels in Red Carnation group . As a lover of Indian foods I’m
    Most impressed with Kevin Joseph and his recipes !!!
    If your in Ireland sometime , would love to experience your cooking !
    My love of Indian food began in Kuwait back in 1986! Then I discovered Maddur Jaffrey !
    Need I sat any more ? Love food ! Love experimenting with spices ! Think u could teach me a thing or Two !!
    Here’s to good food and cooking for those who appreciate good food , take care and hope to hear from u !!

    • RCH says:

      We’re so glad you enjoyed your stay with us at Ashford Castle, and we look forward to welcoming you to some of our other hotels!

      Best wishes,

  17. One large spoon of peanut butter! Its not he same without the peanut butter, it binds all the ingredients together!

  18. Harry Shukla says:

    Another quick way to cook is shown at Most critical flavors for Durban curry come from combination of star anise and anise seeds along with good garam masala that contains cinnamon corriander black peppers etc.

  19. Hi I used to be a trainee at Oyster Box from SACA I now work in America so happy to see those curries, use to cook with dacine , thank you for giving me life time experience,

  20. Chrissie says:

    It’s not too late to start cooking a (mutton) curry…and this recipe helped me achieved the perfect meal. So much easier than I thought, although it did help that my mom left behind all her spices after her recent visit. Thanks so much!

  21. Gavin Maree says:

    Hi Could you please tell me where i could find good quality Durban masala and curry powder. Thanks and regards Gavin.

  22. Ivor Tillman says:

    Why bother? When a trip to the Oyster Box will rexult in the most sensational curries ever to grace the table. Great evening too!!

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