It is always fascinating and enlightening to see how a popular ethnic food made its way around the world. It can be a touchstone to measure the rise, spread and fall of civilizations and empires. To follow the path of foods around the world is to understand the movement and influence of various cultures during specific periods in history.
Some foods and ingredients spread like wildfire and become bona fide international flavor superstars, with peoples from all corners of the world developing local interpretations and making it their own. Curry is one of these foods.
Curry, as we know it today, is generally a blend of spices that may include red pepper, turmeric, fenugreek, coriander, cumin, mustard seed, caraway, fennel, black pepper, clove, cinnamon and cardamom. It is intensely complex and depending on which part of the world you’re in, the sauces made with curry can be thick, light, spicy or mild.
Many of curry’s main ingredients are found in the southern regions of India. Buddhist monks were responsible for bringing the curry spices out of India to southeast Asia and China in 600 AD. One thousand years later, members of the British East India trading company brought them to Europe in the mid-1600s AD. They first encountered the spices through their dealings with Tamil merchants in the Indian trading outpost of Madras/Chennai (or Fort St. George, as it was known then).
Sugar traders brought curry to the New World via the Caribbean in the 1800s. But curry didn’t just leave India–it found its way back, too. In the 1500s chili pepper, a key ingredient in curry today, was introduced to India via Portuguese traders.
In other words, curry powder is the very essence of a true world food.
As with many ethnic foods, traditional curry dishes have an enthusiastic fan base. Some enjoy the rich, complex taste of curry and its combination of exotic herbs and spices. Others revel in the intense heat. The Food Channel World Market now offers a traditional Madras Curry Powder from India. This superior product, properly presented in an authentic tin can, exhibits the best of both worlds by perfectly balancing intense flavor and spicy heat.
Try using it to make a rich stew of shredded pork shoulder or leg of lamb, with potato, carrots, coconut milk and curry powder served over rice. A little goes a long way when it comes to curry, especially the powerful Madras curry. When you experiment with curry, you unlock one of the world’s great tastes.