Currification Complete!

How the UK has currified the world

Posted: 12.10.12

It’s long reigned as the most loved dish in the UK, enjoyed by 27 million people on a regular basis – curry has literally taken over Britain, and thanks to us, is also now the best loved dish in the world.
To find out more about this phenomenon, we spoke to one of the countries most committed curraholics – Peter Grove, founder of National Curry Week. 

Peter consumes an estimated 300 curries a year (he didn’t reveal what he eats on the other 36 days of the year!), and is co-author of curry bible The Flavours of History which traces the roots and popularity of the spicy dish. First question…why are Britons so obsessed with curry?
Peter explains: ‘We have a history of liking spices from as long as we have been able to get hold of them. The first cookbook in the UK, published in 1390 was called The Forme Of Cury so we were already making dishes that were like a curry before we were influenced by the sub-continent 200 years later!’ 
It turns out the word was adapted from the French word ‘cuire’ which was similar to ‘kari’ and ‘karai’ in Tamil, hence the word 'curry' was born. 400 years on, curry is eaten in various forms throughout the US, Caribbean, South Africa, Japan and of course Asia. But how responsible were we for the growth of curry around the world?

Peter explains: ‘During the wars food was bland, so once they were over we really experimented and went back to spicy food – but it’s not just about chilli. People ask me a lot why raisins are so common in British curries – it’s because it was our interpretation of Kashmiri cooking. We’ve taken curries from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan and made them our own and the world has followed suit. 15 years ago there were just 1000 Indian restaurants in the Us, now there are lots more. Japan has followed too, Japanese curry is their second most popular dish and in Germany they have a restaurant for the humble currywurst.’   

Having eaten in thousands of restaurants around the UK (and in India), Peter is clearly the main to ask about where the best curry in the country can be found. He reveals: ‘There is a lot of geographical significance to do with where communities settled. In London most curries are Bangladeshi, apart from Southall where they are Punjabi. From there the Midlands the Kashmiri balti is popular up to Newcastle where Bangladeshi cuisine is popular up until Edinburgh but then Punjabi food reigns in Glasgow.’

So with an estimated 73% of the nation enjoying curry as a regular part of their diet, is it adding to obesity or can curry ever be good for your health? Peter quickly jumps in: ‘Curry is very healthy it’s just what you eat and how much you eat. The creamy curries and extra side dishes is where the calories add up. Interestingly in the South flavour is important but in the North it’s all about quantity! The key ingredients of curry have many health benefits such as garlic and turmeric.’

National Curry Week takes place from 8th-14th October 2012.

IMAGE: Madhu's

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