The History of Curry

neil bougourd | 27 June, 2022


Each combination of spices, for each individual dish is a matter of region, family preference, culture, and religious practice. These delicious dishes have specific names, some I am sure you will recognize, which refer to the heat (spiciness), ingredients, and of course cooking method.

Remarkably, the same spices are used both whole and ground; cooked or raw; and when /how they are used and added, create different flavours and dishes!

 Curry powder is  a commercially prepared mixture of spices, dating from the 18th century. It is mostly a Western European notion. Such mixtures are believed to have  been prepared  for members of the British Colonial government and army returning to Britain. The creation of one powder, instead of many individual spices was easier to sell.

Curries may be either wet or dry. Wet curries contain sauce or gravy made from either yoghurt, coconut milk, dal, or stock. Dry curries are cooked with very little liquid, leaving the ingredients coated with the spice mixture.

Curries were  carried to Burma, Thailand, and China by Buddhist monks in the 7th century, and then introduced to  Indonesia, the Philippines, and elsewhere by  traders. During the 19th century, curry was also brought to the Caribbean by Indian indentured workers in the British sugar industry.

The Portuguese trading centre in Goa established in 1510, resulted in the first introduction of the chili peppers to India. Potatoes,  and maybe tomatoes were also introduced by the Portuguese.

Every country has adapted their curries to available  ingredients, and preferred cooking methods. Below I have broken down just some of the  flavours, cooking methods, and ingredients.

Most curry blends have cumin, coriander, and turmeric. I have highlighted the spices that are most often added to those from the regions listed.

VINDALOO– Portugese influence vinha d’alhos ( wine & garlic). Vinegar, sugar and chilis.
(pork, fish)

BIRIYANI – clove , cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, Indian bay leaf (Malabar leaf)

Coastal – black pepper, asafoetida, fenugreek, curry leaves.

Malayali curries - coconut milk, curry leaves, mustard seeds, red chilis, cardamom, cloves, ginger & cinnamon.
(vegetarian, fish, poultry, meat)

KULAMBU -Curry leaves, tamarind,  ginger, garlic, chili pepper, poppy seeds, mustard seeds, cinnamon, clove, cardamom,  fennel , fenugreek, nutmeg, asafoetida.

DOSA ( fish, seafood, vegetarian)

ROGAN JOSH – Wet curry yogurt, Kashmiri chilis., saffron, cumin, turmeric, ginger & fennel – no onions or garlic. (lamb)

SARSON DA SAAG & TIKKA MASALA– Dry roasted spices, cream & butter. Garam masala.

NB – Madras is the old name of the city of Chennai. Madras curry was invented by restaurants in Britain, and before that it was known as Puliyur kottam.

Distinguishes itself by using more FRESH herbs instead of dried mixed spices.
KAENG – Onions, chilis and garlic & shrimp paste. Watery dishes to be eaten with rice.
KARI – Using an Indian style curry powder with fresh ginger, garlic, lemongrass shrimp past, Thai basil leaves
We have a great yellow Thai curry powder.

Includes Allspice, ginger, nutmeg, scotch bonnet and some more traditional madras curry spices. Jamaican Goat Curry is popular.

Introduced by the British late 19th century.
SAUCE -Curry powder made into a roux with flour and oil.
KARE UDON – Noodles with curry sauce
KARE –PAN – curry stuffed bread
KARE RAISU– curry rice and pickled vegetables.
CHINESE CURRY White pepper, hot chili oil added to a mildly, spicy yellow curry sauce

VADOUVAN Maybe from Pondicherry (colonial French influence) Turmeric, cumin, coriander, curry leaves, cardamom, & fennel seeds. Fried onions, garlic & shallots.

We have a great dry Vadouvan blend.