History of Curry in Great Britain

I read an excerpt from a book, Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham, about the history of curry in Great Britain. The piece was interesting because it discussed how spices used in Indian food have influenced other foods throughout the world. When spices like turmeric first came to Great Britain, most English people would follow recipes for Indian food precisely. But over time, people would begin to cut corners by creating a curry powder, which was a mix of different spices in a packaged form. The English continued to change Indian curry recipes by forgoing frying the spices and using flour to thicken the dish. The changes that the English have made to Indian spices over hundreds of years shows how each culture takes ideas from a society and modifies them to fit into their customs. For example, Britain eventually stopped using traditional Indian spices, like turmeric and cumin, for European herbs, like thyme. When the English brought Indian food to some of their colonies, like Australia, they would alter the recipes as well to include certain foods specific to their area, like kangaroo tail. While I understand why the English have altered curry to include ingredients that are grown closer to their region, I do not understand why they have altered specific ways of cooking the recipe.

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Like I mentioned above, England created curry powder to make it easier to cook the dish. But spices have different cooking times, and therefore some curries may have a faint burnt or raw taste to them. The English have made other changes, like adding flour to their curry and adding  spices to the pot at the same time as the stock or water. I find all of these changes confusing because there is no reason for them; the alterations change the consistency and taste of Indian curry in a way that makes people hate the taste of traditional Indian food, which is reflected in Collingham’s book, when one English woman went to India. Therefore, from this reading, it seems like British Indian food is inauthentic because of the change in ingredients and the steps taken in making curry.

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Throughout the world, different ethnic foods have been adapted by other countries in a way that is not traditional. In America, most Chinese restaurants serve a dish called General Tso’s chicken, which is inauthentic because it does not exist in other countries. It makes me wonder how many dishes are out there that are labelled as ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic’ but are actually adaptations to a specific cultural food. And if that is the case, are there any ethnic dishes that are truly ‘authentic’ and have not undergone change throughout history?   

 

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