Did You Know Stories

The Curry Story!

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This post provides a quick peek into the history and cultural significance of curry, highlighting its diverse and enduring appeal as a cuisine that has captured the imagination of people all over the world.

What is Curry?

The word curry has become popular around the world and is now widely used to refer to a variety of dishes that are typically made with a combination of spices and herbs, vegetables, meat, or fish, and a sauce or gravy.

What is curry? Watch to get a quick overview

There is no – just curry!

When the British colonized India, they encountered a variety of spice-based dishes that were served with rice, and they began referring to them collectively as “curry” as it was too complex for their delicate culinary background.

However, it’s worth noting that the term “curry” is not used in the same way in South Asian countries, where the cuisine is more diverse and complex than what is commonly referred to as “curry” in the West.

Then what is curry?

Did you know that curry actually originated in South India over 4,000 years ago, using local spices such as turmeric and pepper to create a delicious and flavorful blend?

While curry is found in various forms across South East Asia and other regions, it is the cultural significance it holds that is most important.

It is not just a specific dish or spice, but rather a term used to describe a variety of dishes that originate from different countries and cultures.

The word “curry” actually comes from the Tamil word “kari” meaning sauce. It was the British who introduced the word to describe the spice-based dishes they encountered in India.

South indian Chicken curry
South Indian Chicken Curry – Source with Recipe

Curry can be made with a variety of meats, including chicken, goat, lamb, pork, shrimp, and fish. Vegetarian and vegan curries are also popular. The heat level can vary widely, from mild to extremely spicy, depending on the type and amount of chili peppers used in the recipe.

Curry leaves are an essential ingredient in many Indian and Sri Lankan curries, and coconut milk is a common ingredient in Thai curries, while yogurt or cream is often used in Indian curries to create a creamy texture.

Indian vegetarian curries
Different Vegetable Curries Source – has recipes for popular vegetarian dishes

Interestingly, curry powder, commonly used in Western-style curries, is actually a Western invention. In India, most curries are made by blending spices together fresh for each dish.

Curry from around Asia

Curry is a term now used to describe a variety of dishes originating from different countries and cultures, including India, Thailand, Japan, and others. Despite its clearly Indian origins, curry has had a significant impact on the cuisine of many countries around the world.


Japanese curry (known as “karē” in Japanese) is a popular comfort food in Japan and is often served with rice or noodles.

Japanese Pork Curry
Japanese Pork Curry – katsu kare – Source with Recipe

Japanese-style curry typically includes meat and vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and onions, and is thicker and sweeter than Indian or Thai curries.

The curry roux used in Japanese curry is made with a blend of spices, including turmeric, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon, but it is milder and sweeter than Indian curry.

Some popular Japanese curry dishes include katsu curry (served with breaded and fried pork or chicken), beef curry, and vegetable curry.

Burma (Myanmar)

Burmese curries are known for their strong flavors and use of local spices, such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass.

Burmese Fish Curry
Burmese Fish Curry – amat hin – Source with recipe

One popular Burmese curry dish is “ohn no khao swè” a coconut milk-based chicken noodle soup that is flavored with a blend of spices, including turmeric, paprika, and chili powder.

Another popular Burmese curry is “amat hin” a spicy fish curry made with tomato, tamarind, and chili.

Malaysia and Singapore

Malaysian and Singaporean curries are heavily influenced by Indian cuisine, but they also incorporate local spices and ingredients, such as lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves.

Malaysian Chicken Rendang Curry
Malaysian Chicken rendang curry – Source with recipe

One popular Malaysian curry dish is “rendang” a dry curry made with beef, chicken, or lamb that is flavored with a blend of spices and coconut milk.

Another popular Malaysian curry is “laksa” a noodle soup that can be made with a curry broth that is flavored with spices and coconut milk.

Singaporean Curry Laksa
Singaporean Curry Laksa – Source with recipe

In Singapore, “curry laksa” is a popular dish that features a spicy coconut milk-based broth with noodles, seafood, and vegetables.


Indonesian curries are known for their complex flavors and use of local spices and ingredients, such as turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, and tamarind.

One popular Indonesian curry is “rendan” which is similar to the Malaysian version, but is usually spicier and more complex in flavor.

Indonesian Seafood Curry - or Gulai
Indonesian Seafood Curry – or Gulai – Source and recipe

Another popular Indonesian curry is “gulai” a curry made with meat, fish, or vegetables that is flavored with a blend of spices and coconut milk.


In the Philippines, curries are not as commonly consumed as they are in other Southeast Asian countries, but there are some traditional Filipino curries.

One popular Filipino curry dish is “kare-kare” a peanut-based stew that is made with oxtail, beef, or pork, and is usually served with vegetables and rice.

Ginataang Manok
Filipino Chicken Curry – Ginaatang Manok – Source and Recipe

Another popular Filipino curry is “ginataang manok” a chicken curry made with coconut milk and spices such as ginger and turmeric.


Thai curries are known for their bold and spicy flavors, and they often include a combination of meat, vegetables, and aromatic herbs.

Thai curries are typically made with a paste that includes ingredients such as lemongrass, galangal, chili peppers, and shrimp paste.

Some popular Thai curries include green curry, red curry, and massaman curry.

Thai Chicken Curry
Thai Curry – Source

Green curry is spicier than red curry and is made with green chili peppers, while red curry is milder and sweeter than green curry and is made with red chili peppers.

Massaman curry is a relatively mild curry that is flavored with spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg, and is often made with beef or chicken. Thai curries are typically served with rice or noodles.


Cambodian curries are characterized by their use of herbs such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal.

Cambodian Curry
Cambodian Curry Amok – Source

Fish amok is a popular Cambodian curry dish made with fish, coconut milk, and a blend of spices including turmeric, garlic, and chili.

Another popular Cambodian curry is kari sach ko, a beef curry flavored with lemongrass, ginger, and kaffir lime leaves.


Lao curries are known for their spiciness and often feature local ingredients such as buffalo meat and padaek, a fermented fish paste.

One popular Lao curry is “mok pa” a fish curry that is steamed in banana leaves with a blend of spices, including galangal, lemongrass, and chili.

Laos Curry
Laos curry – Kaeng Nor Mai – Source

Another popular Lao curry is “kaeng nor mai” a bamboo shoot curry that is typically made with pork and flavored with a blend of spices including garlic, ginger, and turmeric.

Current usage of the word curry

The term “curry” then spread to other parts of the world, and today, it is commonly used to refer to a range of South Asian-inspired dishes that are served in Western countries.

When people in western countries hear the word “curry” they often think of a spicy, flavorful dish that is made with a combination of spices and served with rice or bread.

Some common ingredients in Western-style curries include onions, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili peppers, although the exact spices used can vary depending on the recipe and the region.

In many western countries, “curry” is also associated with a particular type of restaurant or takeaway, where customers can order a variety of different curries to go.

British Rule and it’s cuisine

When the East India Company first arrived in India in the 17th century, they were introduced to a new world of spices and flavors that they had never experienced before.

Indian cuisine was already well-developed, and the British were amazed at the variety of ingredients and the complexity of the cooking techniques.

The British diet was primarily composed of meat, potatoes, and vegetables, and they did not use many spices or herbs, if at all.

The British were not particularly known for their cuisine at the time, and their food was often considered bland and uninteresting. Some say, it did not progress much since then, other than a wider availability of different cuisines.

At least now, they have some flavor in their food – as over time, the British did begin to incorporate some Indian flavors into their cuisine.

Want to curry favor?

The phrase “curry favor” likely evolved from the idea of someone adding spice to their food to make it more palatable, much like how one might try to sweeten their words or actions to win favor with someone.

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