history of british curry

The History of the British Curry

The British love of curry dates back to the early 18th century and is considered a national dish, although the origins are obviously Indian. However, as Britain adopted the love of spice, the history of curry changed, with even the term ‘curry’ being an English one.

If you go to India, you’ll hardly see the term ‘curry’ anywhere. This blanket term for Indian food does not exist here – in fact, it is a colonial idiom. The term curry derives from the Tamil word ‘kari’, which means sauce. This rather vague term generally denotes any dish with Indian spices such as turmeric, coriander, cumin, and coriander. The word ‘curry’ was then first seen in England as early as 1747 in a cookbook. This cookbook featured three recipes of Indian pilau, rabbit curry, and Indian pickle. The love of Indian food in England had officially started.

The popularity of Anglo-Indian cuisine progressed with the endorsement of Queen Victoria. Her enthusiasm for Indian food took over the nation, as she requested Indian food to be cooked every day by her Indian staff. In fact, by 1852, a cookbook stated that ‘few dinners are thought complete unless [curry] is on the table’.

By the 20th century, ‘curry’ had officially made it into the hearts and palettes of Britain. The flavours, although related to Indian cooking, have been adjusted to the British tastes. In general, British modified curries are creamier, thicker, and sweeter. Britain also tends to categorise Indian cooking by spice level, which is hardly done in India. There is much more variety, as you might expect, in India with their dishes ranging drastically regionally.

The ‘chicken tikka masala’ is one of the most renowned British curries. A derivative of the Indian Butter Chicken, legend states that the tikka masala curry was created in Glasgow. This dish has since been titled Britain’s National Dish.

It’s clear that Britain loves curry, however, tastes are now changing. We have moved on from the Western adaptations and embracing authentic Indian flavours. Our range at Kohinoor champions the true taste of this exciting subcontinent and all the different culinary delights it offers. We even have ‘curry’ dishes that you’ll recognise, such as a jalfrezi, but with the perfectly balanced tastes from India.