The argument rages on - where does curry originate from? Is it
from the Tamil word 'Kari' as is widely believed although highly
unlikely historically, from kadhi, Portuguese caril or even from
karahi? New research, however, at long last gives us a clearer
Some years ago food historians Peter and Colleen Grove suggested
that the origins of curry (the word that is) actually lay here in
England with the publishing of 'The Forme of Cury' in 1390. 200 cooks
and several philosophers were summoned by King Richard II to produce
the first English cookery book. The book contained 196 recipes. None
of these recipes had any thing in common with Indian curries. 'Cury'
was the Old English word meaning cuisine, based on French 'cuire'
meaning: to cook, boil, or grill.. After the cookery book, Cury
became a popular part of English vocabulary. The term Cury became
associated with stew.
So when in 1612, the English Merchants of the new East India
Company attended a state dinner given by Jahangir on arrival in India
they were served 'Dumpukht fowl stew' made with butter, spices,
almond and raisins. According to attendees, the taste of Dumpukht was
similar to 'English Chicken Pie' described in a cookery book 'The
English Hus-wife' by Gevase Markham popular at the time.
Many spices used in Dumpukht had been in use in Europe for
centuries earlier. In the time of King Richard I, cooks in better-off
kitchens regularly used Ginger, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Galingale,
Cubebs, Coriander, Cumin, Cardamom, and Aniseed. They formulated
'Powder Fort', 'Powder Douce', and 'Powder Blanch'.
When one considers that at that time Cury was a common term used
in England for stew, and the spices used in Dumpukht stew were
similar to 'English Chicken Pie' the merchants must have thought that
they were eating Cury.
The next chapter in the story - the missing link - comes from the
Jewish community in Goa. Jewish Spice Merchants from Venice arrived
in Kerala before the Syrian Christians. The Jewish merchants were
settled before the arrival of either British or Portuguese. After
World War II most of the Jews departed for Israel. Perhaps this
explains why this aspect is hardly mentioned on the subject. The Jews
fused their own cuisine with that in India, incorporated the spices
they traded (Black Pepper, Pippali, Cardamom, Cinnamon and
Coriander), and spices used by locals (Kari Patta, Turmeric, Mustard
seeds, Sesame seeds and oil, Tamarind). Jewish laws prohibited mixing
milk with meats, so they used coconut milk instead. When Portuguese
brought the Chili pepper from the new world, the Jews were more than
happy to incorporate chili peppers. They combined the pungency of
black pepper, fresh green chili pepper and dried ground red chili
peppers. They made fowl stews with dominant flavours from fresh
leaves of a local spice tree called Kari. These stews were just
called by the type of meat and Kari, example: Kozi Kari. Kari or
Kariat was carried over to Portuguese and then to British Merchants.
British Merchants called it Currey to differentiate it from their
familiar term Cury used for English Cuisine.
The first known published curry recipe is Fowl Rabbit Currey
recipe in 'Art of Cookery' by Hannah Glasse in1747. This is the first
published currey recipe in UK. The book remained on top best seller
list for 125 years. It appeared in 20 editions. The initial 'currey'
recipe was for a stew of fowls or rabbit, and used only whole
coriander seeds and black peppercorn. In the fourth addition, she
added ginger and turmeric.
By the time 'Chicken Topperfield plus Currypowder' Recipe was
published by Stephana Malcom 'In The Lairds Kitchen, Three Hundred
Years of Food in Scotland' 1791 the 'e' had been dropped and 'curry' appeared
Mrs Beeton's 'Book of Household Management' was published in
1861 and had 14 curry recipes including Dr Kitchener's recipe for
India Curry Powder. After this book was published, many bland stews
were Beetonized by adding curry powder. The British love-affair with
Curry had begun.