A 4500 Years Old History and Legacy of Curry

Curry is something which we think of as indigenous to India and Pakistan. But did you know that the English love their curry so much so that they even have National Curry Week? Where did this curry come from? Can we Indians claim that it originated on our land?

Every household in India will have their own version of curry to go with rice or Indian breads. Depending on the household or the region, curries can either be ‘dry’ or ‘wet’. Dry curry is coated with the spice mixture and cooked with very little liquid which is allowed to evaporate. While wet curries contain significant amounts of sauce or gravy that could be yoghurt, cream, coconut milk, coconut cream, or broth-based.

Since its inception curry has evolved so much that it has new meaning, and new flavours now. Once “curry” was just a word for Indian food but now versions of this are dish popular all across the globe. The word “curry” comes from Tamil word kari (spiced sauce), which was originally a thin, soup-like, spiced dressing served in southern India. Curry (from French curie, to cook) appeared in the 1390s in an English cookbook, The Forme of Cury, and kari was first described in a mid-17th Century Portuguese cookbook by members of the British East India Company trading with Tamil merchants along the Coromandel Coast of southeast India.

Fish Curry
Sketch of Fish | Image Source

But the origin of curry goes even further back, to ancient Indus valley Civilization. Food historians and scientists believe that they may have found evidence of 4000 year old “proto curry”. Villagers living at the height of the Indus Valley Civilization used three key curry ingredients: ginger, garlic, and turmeric  in their cooking. In fact according to a report on BBC, traces of curry and starch grains were found in human teeth, and in a cooking pot found in the ancient town of Farmana, west of Delhi, by anthropologists. Findings made by Arunima Kashyap and Steve Weber of Washington State University, Vancouver were published in the journal, Science, which dates the discovery of curry to between 2500BC and 2200BC.

The Mughal Empire also had a great role to play in influencing the flavour of curry in the early 16th century, and curry was introduced to English in the 17th century with Anglo-Indian cooking techniques where they used to add spicy sauce to boiled meat. If we have to believe legends, one 19th century attempt at curry resulted in the invention of Worcestershire sauce.

In the 19th century, indentured Indian workers in the British During the 19th century, curry was also carried to the Caribbean by Indian indentured workers in the British sugar industry. Since the mid-20th century, curries of many national styles have become popular far from their origins, and increasingly become part of international fusion cuisine.

There are many versions of curry in different countries be it Hong Kong, England, Sri Lanka, Africa, West Indies or China, but we Indians can claim that it was us who first created this wonderful dish and then the world followed us.



4 Comments Add yours

  1. Amazingly written, Sadaf. Thank you for sharing all the history of curry with us.


    1. Food and Streets by Sadaf says:

      I am glad you liked the post, stick around to see another food history tomorrow. Feel free to share and spread the love for food with the world.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I will share it for sure on my page. Will be excitingly waiting for tomorrow’s article. Do tag me!!


      2. Food and Streets by Sadaf says:

        Awesome. I will tag you tomorrow. Thank you 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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