What is Curry?- 2


How do I explain curry to foreigners? Here is an article that does 🙂

Some relevant quotes:

“The idea of a curry is, in fact, a concept that the Europeans imposed on India’s food culture,” Lizzy Collingham.

“The Indians had specific names for each and every dish of theirs (rasam, korma, rogan josh). Not only did the British call all these unfamiliar dishes “curry,” but once the British went home and had to satisfy their cravings using only the spice mixes prepared by their cooks back in India, they sprinkled these spice powders onto anything and everything and called the dish “curry.”

“British used the term curry to describe dishes from every Indian region. This was a boon as well as a curse in disguise: A curse because they glossed over the regional differences and compressed the staggering heterogeneity and diversity of Indian cooking into a simplistic box;”

“Indians call their dishes curries while referring to them in English, notwithstanding the fact that they are referred to by their individual names in the native language.”

“Curry powder was an attempt by the British to capture all the Indian cuisines into a bottle, a pan-Indian spice mix. “

Indians – Please do not use the word ‘Curry’ to describe Indian dishes to foreigners.

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4 thoughts on “What is Curry?- 2

  1. So I’ve been thinking about this:
    1. Yes, people unfamiliar with Indian culture refer to all Indian food as curry.
    2. However, Indians use the term ‘curry’ too and in a specific way, not just in translating into a English and glossing over difference. ‘Curry’ refers to the consistency of the dish (more gravy) and using Indian spices. So in Goa while we have specific names for sorpatel, vindalo etc, you’d also quite often say ‘prawn curry’ to mean that preparation.
    My husband is Malyalee and they use ‘curry’ to refer to curry (so ‘meen curry’ = fish curry), although they do have a word for ‘curry’ in Malayalam that is different for the word for drier preparations.
    Therefore I would disagree with not using curry to describe Indian food to foreigners. If it is a curry and I would use the term curry to describe it to other Indians, why should I not use it for foreigners? I do correct foreigners about what ‘curry’ is though, and how there are dishes beyond curry (if I’m in the mood. I’m sure Indians make a lot of mistakes about cuisines they are not familiar with).

    1. Though we do use curry for some dishes, especially in the south, I am tired of every Indian dish becoming a curry and people encouraging missue of that word – Rajma becomes curry, chole beocmes curry, bhindi ki sabzi becomes curry, rasam becomes curry and everything just has curry powder. Then, it is all reduced to 1 giant curry dish and that is something I don’t like.

      When I was thinking of other cuisine food equivalents, I realised this happens because pasta remains pasta, pizza remains pizza irrespective of the sauce or toppings but can every dish remain a curry irrespective of whether it is a dry subzi or sambar or a gravy? I feel the closest way to describe a curry is an Indian gravy but curry cannot be used to describe dry sabzi (cooked) or any soupy stuff or stuff with lentils but nobody can tell the difference which is what bothers me.

  2. One of my biggest peeves. I had blogged about his incident where a colleague would always ask ‘Curry?’ each time I opened my lunch box. That would have rice-salad-paratha-sandwich or whatever. He is Vietnamese. So I started saying noodles everytime he would open his specially when he obviously had soup or stew or rice. Haha.

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