The History of Curry
I think everyone in Britain has a real emotive connection to the word curry. Even if you don’t particularly like it, there’s a real cultural feel when you think about it.
For me, it’s family meals both at home and in a restaurant. It’s making them at home but never quite being able to do it as well as a takeout. It’s the gorgeous smell of a takeaway that lingers the next day, and the daring to get the spiciest on the menu.
But curry in Britain has a tricky past, and we thought it would be an interesting idea to dive into some of those parts of its history, so that next time we make one at home, we can appreciate how it got here in the first place.
DISCLAIMER: COLONIALISM IS GOING TO BE DISCUSSED. Y’ALL HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Modern curries can thank the Portugese
India, like a lot of countries around the world, has been subject to the practise of colonisation by various European powers. While Britain did eventually have control over the state, it was Portugal that had the most influence on the dish, due to their introducing red chillies and vinegar into Goa. The first curry created with these ingredients was a Vindaloo, and it seems that the word ‘curry’ means ‘to blacken with spices’.
Curry Powder is a British ‘invention’
When the British occupied India, they had a big hand in taking traditional Indian flavours and changing them to suit their different palates. Nabobs (the word Indians used to describe the British in the country) would hire cooks to make their curry for them, and when they travelled, they would combine all of the typical spices used in their dishes so as not to lose out on the flavours they enjoyed so much. In fact, the first time curry powder was mentioned in print was in a mid 18th century cookbook by Hannah Glasse. So, while curry powder is delicious, it isn’t strictly authentic!
Queen Victoria was curry mad
I mean, who can blame the gal? Victoria reportedly set off a curry craze due to one of her Indian servant’s being able to make her the traditional dishes. And whatever Victoria does, the rest of the country follows suit!
Brick Lane is the Curry centre of Britain for a reason
Brick Lane in London is famous for the amount of amazing curry restaurants, and there is a very cool reason for this.
Due to the horrendous working conditions, many Bengali (at the time Bengal was called Sylhet) workers would jump off the ships in London and run away.
The centre for caring for these migrants was in Brick Lane, and a community sprang up in the street. This grew through the century, and after the Second World War the descendants of these original men and women were able to own their own businesses, and the blend of the curry house and the pub was born.
Anyone really craving a home cooked curry right now? Yeah, me too. Our Spicy Night In has all the spices you need in a handy refillable tin and a beer for the chef!