So where in the world did Indian curry come from? I'll try to keep it brief. There are two different theories about where curry came from, but at the end of the day, we can thank the Brits. But with any good story, we have to go backwards before we can go forward.
The year is 1498, Vasco de Gama arrives in Calcutta, discovering a whole new trade rout to India. Hooray for the Portuguese! By 1511, the Portuguese were in control of the spice trade off of the central India coast and their major export... Black Pepper! However, this would be short lived. Between 1575 and 1590, the story becomes that of a great Hollywood blockbuster because it has all of the classic plot components.. illegal growing and trading, piracy, theft, corruption, scandal.. the list goes on. Anyway, what goes up must come down.. Cue the Dutch. By the end of the 16th Century, the Portuguese powerhouse was waning and the Dutch saw the perfect opportunity to attack.. and they did, ending the rule of the Portuguese. So, now the Dutch have the ball, and by the early 17th century they are in control of the spice trade. Oh - side note - why are the Europeans so bent on getting spices from the Orient during the Renaissance? There are a couple reasons...
1. Black Pepper, like early sauces, was used to mask the flavor and smell of spoiled meat. Remember, refrigeration wasn't really discovered until the middle of the 19th Century.
2. Cinnamon and Cloves were used as odor eaters, and were aids in cleanliness and ventilation.
3. Spices were thrown across the floor to combat odiferous feet.
The list goes on. Let me get back on track. So, by the middle of the 17th Century, the Dutch have a stronghold on the spice trade - not just black pepper, but also, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, etc.
The British are Coming.. The British are Coming.. But not to America,
So now it's the time for the Brits, and their powerful Navy.. and in 1780, the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War begins. By 1800, The British have full control of the Spice Trade. (This is all very interesting as the Dutch and the Brits had been allies since the Glorious Revolution of 1688). Now, here's where the story gets interesting. With the British controlling the spice trade, there are obviously a lot of ships going back and forth, as are migrant workers. And then there's the British occupation of India, or the British Raj - but that's a whole other story. So, curry powder. Is there an end in sight? I hope so!
Now, remember the two theories thing I mentioned like way up above somewhere? I'm finally going to get to that. With the occupation of British India, there were many traders that had moved there. And what happens when you move to a new place, you eat what the people there are eating. That being said, here is theory 1: The Chinese came up with the powdered spice blend to emulate what the British were eating during their time in India. Some say that this is why you will find "curry" on Chinese menus. or Theory 2: In the mid 1700's, Indian traders started coming to England on spice trading ships.
It has been thought that due to the low wages that the sailors on the vessels received, a lot of the Indian migrants turned to being cooks, as it was more profitable. Many of these cooks would craft English and Indian fare using the spices that came from the spice trade (hold up.. is this the first example of fusion cooking?) and came up with Curry Powder to suit the English palate!
But what about Indian Curry dishes... are they not a thing either? Nope!
Curry is a made up British word - that has its roots in another word, but nobody can seem to agree on which one. Some say kari, which may refer to a saucy dish. Others say that it may come from khari - a cooking vessel unique to Indian cooking that somewhat resembles a wok. But whatever the origin, the word Curry doesn't even exist in India! However there are many unique spice blends used in Indian Cookery. I hope you enjoy some of the blends I have for you below... And, of course, there's a Curry Powder recipe.
Oh, and most "Curry Powders" are made in India and exported.