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The History of Curry… Discover the British Influence on your Favourite Dish

28th December 2014

history of curry

Curry is one of Britain’s favourite dishes, but have you ever wondered about the history of curry? You may be surprised to learn that our love for curry goes back to the time of the British Raj, when army officers and civil servants who were based in India discovered the wonderful flavours of the beautifully fragrant curry powders used throughout their adopted country. They, alongside Indians who arrived in England during the 1800s introduced the spices needed to create curry dishes and thus, the history of curry began.

Even Royalty has a place in the history of curry as Queen Victoria’s chief cook, Charles Francatelli devised a recipe for Indian curry sauce and the Queen also regularly ordered her two Indian chefs to prepare Indian feasts for her guests.

Delving further into the history of curry, we were delighted to discover the English influence on curry. Indeed, even the name ‘curry’ is English, coming from the Tamil word ‘Kari’, which is actually a term for black pepper. The term curry was first used as the word ‘cury’, the Middle English term for cooking a dish from a mixture of ingredients. With the return of colonials from India and the increasing movement of Indian migrants to the UK, Indian dishes were gaining immense popularity but many people found the names difficult to pronounce so they reverted to calling all spicy dishes ‘cury’ or, as we know now know it, curry.

Here in the UK, there is an abundance of different curry dishes due to the influence of migrants from India and beyond who have their own variations and regions offering their take on what makes the perfect mix…. You can appreciate just how far back our love of spices blends goes by looking at the history of curry.

You may also know that when Indian chefs opened their restaurants here, (as early back as the 1809 when an entrepreneurial migrant by the name of Dean Mahomed opened Hindostanee Coffee House selling spicy meat and vegetable dishes) many adapted their curry dishes to suit the British palate with strong spicing and the use of chillies toned down. Creamier dishes made with cream or coconut, such as Chicken Tikka Masala (made especially for the British) were also created in the 70s, although who can lay claim to actually concocting the mix that became Masala sauce is widely disputed.

And given our taste for all things spice, there is another interesting fact to discover – it was the Brits who took spices all over the world, which makes us proud participants in the history of curry!

So, next time you cook your favourite Suhana Spices curry dish, think of the rich history of curry, remember the British influence, and how far your favourite dish has come!