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Where does the term curry come from?

Jul 15 • Traveling • 1022 Views • No Comments on Where does the term curry come from?

Curry is actually a British word used to describe Indian food. According to the curry bible written by Madhur Jaffrey, curry is taken from the Kannada word ‘karil’ or its Tamil equivalent ‘kari’. The best translation of these words is sauce, and kari is a thin soup-like sauce made from spices and used to dress meat in Southern Indian dishes. However they are similar to the words for dish that sizzling curries are cooked in, which is ‘karai’ or ‘kahari’.
There is also a proposed non-Indian etymology for the word, a French word to be exact. Cuire means ‘to cook’ in French and it is thought that this word inspired a 1390 cookbook called ‘The Forme of Curry’. Even before the Indian curry existed as we know it, British cooks were using the term ‘curies’ to describe the meat dishes which they added spices to.
What are the origins of curry?
Scientists think that the first curry may have been made in the Indus Valley in India, which was home to one of the world’s first civilisation. A cooking pot was found by anthropologists in the ancient town of Farmana to the west of Delhi. They believe this because traces of two of the potent spices which make a curry, ginger and turmeric, were found in grain starch in the teeth of a prehistoric man. Indeed the Indus Valley was one of the first places to grow rice and so an early antecedent of the pairing together of rice and curry.
The first British curry recipe?
Nigella is not the first British domestic culinary goddess. In the 18th century Hannah Glasse came up with a curry recipe in her ‘The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy’ which was one of the most influential books of its time. Indeed, Glasse even had an Indian connection. She and her husband had eight children, one of who was an employee of the East India Company and another one who was in the Royal Navy, but who tragically died when his ship sank off of Pondicherry.
Glasse’s recipe was published in 1747 and it advocated making a stew from chicken (or if you didn’t have that delicacy available then rabbit) and adding rice and spices.
With a familiarity of the region Glasse’s book claimed to instruct people in how to “make a curry the Indian way” and involved browning a chicken in butter and adding ginger, turmeric and pepper, as well as cream and lemons. In those days such spices would have been valuable, which is reflected by the fact that so few of them are used, even though the increasing trade of the East India Company would have gradually made spices more affordable.
What started as quite a basic recipe has certainly gripped the imagination of the British public to the point where the British have adopted it as their own. In 2001, the foreign secretary Robin Cook claimed that Chicken Tikka Masala is a true national dish as it embodies the way that Britain absorbs external cultures.

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