Curry refers to a wide range of dishes, most popular in south Asian cuisines. Today the dish represents a true global fusion food with hundreds of variations, in fact this dish is so well traveled that there has always been a debate regarding its true origin. However, this all changed thanks to findings by archeologist Arunima Kashyap, who recently pinpointed what he believes to be the birthplace of modern day curry. His findings are based on residues found in stone pottery indicating that the Indus Civilization was using a mixture of ginger, garlic, and turmeric to flavor their foods nearly 4,000 year ago. According to this research, and the fact that those ingredients are still used today, curry could quite possibly be the oldest dish to be continuously prepared in the world. Of course since that time, curry has greatly evolved- going from a basic spice combination to representing a fusion of global flavors and preparation styles. One of the adaptions that came about relatively recently in curries history -that westerns are perhaps the most familiar with- is the conception of curry “powder”.

Curry powder simply refers to a combination of roughly 20 different herbs and spices that have been dried and made into a powder. This range of different ingredients varies by region and culinary style, with coriander, cumin and turmeric –and often hot chilies- being the staple components. Arguably the most important aspect of a curry is the turmeric, which is an herbaceous plant indigenous to south East Asia, where it grows and is harvested similar to ginger. This flavorful root boasts a wide range of claimed health benefits, and is responsible for giving curry dishes their deep orange color.

This powdered spice combination, capable of transforming bland dishes into flavorful blasts of deliciousness, first became prevalent in the United Kingdoms around the 18th century. During this time English traders spending time in India began using “curry” as a blanket term to describe a wide range of both meat and vegetable dishes that were popular in the region. It is believed that the English who spent time in India became fond of these richly flavorful dishes, and an Indian spice merchant looking to capitalize on this market, made a powdered curry to sell to Englishman who had returned home. Although, technically speaking, the powder has many of the key ingredients that would be found in a curry dish, it is important to remember that “curry” does not exclusively refer to the powdered form of the spices, but an entire culinary culture. Perhaps the biggest difference is that traditional preparation of curry utilizes various ingredients that are often fresh, incorporated in different ratios, and added at various stages of the cooking process depending on the particular type of curry being made.

These different curry preparations vary widely in different geographic areas where cultures have learned to combine traditional ingredients with their own local flavors to create curry styles unique to their area. For this reason, curry today has become a sort of culinary base that can be easily modified and built upon. Curries ability to blend so well with different flavors has allowed it to infiltrate nearly every cuisine, and is the perfect starting point for edible experimentation. When using curry powder at home, try adding in your own favorite spices and herbs, or integrating particular ingredient flavors that are part of your heritage. Growing and adapting new curry styles in your own kitchen is a true celebration of the resilience of this globally loved dish -and is the perfect way to flex your culinary creativity! 

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