Curry, the Tasteful Dish With a Tasteful History


(Image via Jo Cooks)

Ella Largent, Writer

Food is something almost everyone enjoys. Food is also fairly interesting, and the history can be astonishing with how much it can impact everything. Curry is one of those dishes that has an amazingly tasteful history. As it turns out curry isn’t even in any of the Indian languages in India.  Now if you haven’t had curry, curry is usually in a bowl of rice or noodles, some kind of meat, vegetables and some very flavorful Indian spices. Now that you as a reader have some idea what curry is let’s dive into that tasteful history I had mentioned earlier.

 It all began when the Portuguese invaded Goa, India in the early 1500s (according to The Takeout) and finally digging their heels into the country in 1498. When the Portuguese arrived they were in search of some valuable spices to trade with other cultures. These spices mainly were cardamom, cloves, and black pepper. However while the Portuguese were there they discovered a delicious stew the natives made there called “Kari” which meant sauce, or gravy-like sauce in the Tamil language in Southern India. As the Portuguese settled they started adding their own twists to it like including the chili pepper they had brought with them in the process of invading Goa, India. Chili peppers eventually took over the Indian spices and became a main ingredient in their culture. But the reign Portuguese had over India would come to an end when the British came taking a new reign over India. Similar to the Portuguese, the Brits also took a liking to the spiced, delicious dish “Kari”. The British after some time decided to put all Indian spiced dishes into a single category called curries. They created the term “curries” to refer to dishes like curry as you know today. But what they didn’t know was that changing what they called Indian dishes, in general, would also change the dish “Kari” to be created into a multicultural dish, in disguise of an Indian dish. This goes to be proved in the mid 19th century because almost every British cookbook would have some variation of curry, and Japan had their own variation of curry that was a fairly mild dish in spices and was sweet. Also, in Thailand the curry there was made up of their regional delicious spices like their fiery chiles and coconut milk.                                                                           

One of the main ingredients in most of these curries was curry powder. This powder was manufactured by the British to replicate south India’s colorful spices. Curry powder can range from 5 to over 10 ingredients. These ingredients are most likely to be Cumin, Coriander, Turmeric, Ginger, Dry Mustard, Fenugreek, and Black Pepper, and sometimes the curry leaf, which comes from the curry leaf tree (Murraya Koenigii). 

How this manufactured powder spread around the world was of course by trading. The British in 1789-1867 established trading routes with Penang, Malacca, and Singapore. As the curry powder continued to spread and other regions were making their own curry, almost every country had a curry of their own.  America had its first cookbook with curry in it in 1824, called the “Virginia Housewife”. 

This concludes the history of this amazingly diverse dish that as it turns out wasn’t Indian like we all thought. If after reading this article you suddenly are hungry for this saucy, spiced, meat and rice go find a recipe you’d enjoy.  There’s so many out there, so explore, smell, and taste what you think is your crazy curry dish.