Curry is undoubtedly the most popular spice blend on the planet. We can trace the roots of this blend back to the Tarkaris of South-East India, where it was first found in various simmered, spiced dishes that were totally unknown in the rest of the country. It is in this region, in Madras more specifically, that the English established their first colony in the 18th century. We don’t have all the details, but we can imagine the effect these dishes had on the British taste buds of the day, which wereused to a cuisine renowned for its lack of, well, flavor. The enchantment was immediate, and the infatuation continues, centuries later, as curry is now officially Britain’s national dish
Thus the different curries of the world were born: first the Anglo-Indian Madras curry, then a multitude of curries created by Indian immigrants from the four corners of the Empire.”
It was at this time that the British, guided by their more practical tendencies, created and commercialized an all-purpose powder to spice up their everyday dishes. Curry thus propagated in places where the British traded. The growing needs of the Empire forced them to import Indian laborers for their other colonies in Africa, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the Extreme Orient. These laborers, often very poor, had to make do with the spices they could find in the colonies. Thus the different curries of the world were born: first the Anglo-Indian Madras curry, then a multitude of curries created by Indian immigrants from the four corners of the Empire. These curries often incorporated local spices such as allspice from the Caribbean and star anise from the Orient.
It is the balance of tastes and flavors in these blends that make them so versatile. The hot and bitter flavors of the blend are tempered by the generous addition of mild and sweet binding spices, which in turn balances the other flavors present in most foods.”
Curry powder owes its popularity not only to the simplicity of the Anglo-Indian recipe, which can be adapted to almost any ingredient, but also to the fact that very little is needed to really perk up a dish. It is the balance of tastes and flavors in these blends that make them so versatile. The hot and bitter flavors of the blend are tempered by the generous addition of mild and sweet binding spices, which in turn balances the other flavors present in most foods. The flavors vary greatly from one recipe to another, but there are some classic combinations (cinnamon-ginger or fenugreek-clove for example).
Today, curry is enjoyed by many and has integrated itself into almost every cuisine in the world. In Fiji, corned beef and taro curries are popular. Singapore noodles are stir-fried in curry, and in Scotland, curried scrambled eggs are served with smoked salmon. A bowl of rice covered with vegetable and chicken sweet and sour curry is a favorite among Japanese students and in German train stations, sausages covered in a combination of tomatoes, ketchup and generous amounts of curry powder is a commuter favorite. In Europe, curry mayo perfectly accompanies fondue Bourguignon and Belgian fries. Stuffed bread rolls with curried minced meat and soy sauce are all the rage in China and in French New Caledonia, a pinch of curry is often added to bouillabaisse. This short list shows just how this most adaptable blend has been embraced by the world. All things considered, maybe British cuisine deserves a little more credit after all!