A History of Curry
The history of curry goes back a long way. In fact, there is evidence of it being used in 1700 BC Mesopotamia. While use of curry probably originated in India, it was used in England as early as the 1300’s and probably even earlier. Mention of its use can be found in the first book written on English cooking, written during the time of Richard II (late 1300s).
Curry is used in the cuisine of almost every country and can be incorporated into a dish or even a drink. The word comes from “Kari” which is from the Tamil language and was later anglicized into “curry”1. Curry powder itself is not a single spice but a blend of different spices and can be mild or hot. This golden colored spice is one of the oldest spice mixes and is most often associated with Indian cuisine.
Interestingly enough, the word curry has a different meaning on the Western world then in India. In India, curry refers to a gravy or stew dish. Typically these dishes contain the Indian spice mix garam masala along with ginger, chili, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and sometimes onion and garlic, but it can be made up of many things. In India different curry ingredients are regional. In the West, when we think of curry, we think of curry powder or dishes seasoned with it.
While you might not think that the English would like curry, it’s spread to England is attributed to the British Raj whose personnel acquired a taste for the spicy foods when stationed there. These dishes and recipes were brought back home and the British made them to suit their own tastes.
While we mostly associate curry with hot and spicy peppers, the original Indian curry did not have any peppers in it since chili peppers or red peppers were not native to India. It wasn’t until Christopher Columbus brought chili seeds back from the new world and they were traded to India did they make their way into Indian cooking to become part of the spicy curries we know and love today.
Because of the long history of curry and its adaptation into so many different cuisines, curry itself can have many different tastes and colors. Although we usually associate the golden yellow color (from the tumeric) and pungent spice with the term curry, it can be mild or firey hot and come in a variety of colors. But no matter what spices you mix in your curry - it’s guaranteed to always be exotic and tasty!
1. Online Etymology Dictionary