View previous topic | View next topic


Page 1 of 2
Goto page 1, 2  Next

14872.  Mon Jan 31, 2005 7:50 pm Reply with quote

Whence the hotness?

14874.  Tue Feb 01, 2005 3:15 am Reply with quote

Chilli pepper.

In 1889, at the Universal Paris Exhibition, the composition of "curry powder" (of which more anon) was set by decree, and consisted of tamarind, onion, coriander, chilli pepper, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, pepper and mustard.

However, the idea of curry as a dish flavoured with curry powder was a misrepresentation of spiced Indian dishes, and the word "curry" derives from kari, meaning sauce and used to describe some spicy Indian sauces served with rice and other foods.

Whence the hotness of chilli pepper, of course, is another matter, and derives from capsaicin, a substance varying in amount from pepper to pepper, and measured in terms of hotness by the Scoville Heat Scale devised in the 19th century in America. It ranges from 0 for sweet peppers to 120,000 (or more, which makes the idea of a scale rather otiose) for the firiest African chillies.

Source for all the above is the Larousse Gastronomique.

14878.  Tue Feb 01, 2005 5:04 am Reply with quote

If we can think of some funny stuff about curries (which we should be able to) then the Scoville Scale might be a good way in to the topic.

14892.  Tue Feb 01, 2005 10:04 am Reply with quote

You might start with vindaloo, which is a Portuguese dish, not an Indian one, its name derived from the main ingredients vinho (wine) and alhos (garlic).

Or so it was said. I now find that its etymology is also attributed to viande (French), and aloo-meat and potato (Hindustani) -

However, Madhur Jaffrey's Flavours of India has this:

The correct spelling, vindalho gives away the main seasoning of the original dish, which was once a kind of Portuguese pork stew seasoned with garlic (alhos) and wine (vinho) vinegar. There were probably some black peppercorns in it as well, especially at the tables of affluent families. The vinegar acted as a preservative, allowing the stew to be eaten over several days.

14898.  Tue Feb 01, 2005 12:43 pm Reply with quote

And where does Britain's favourite dish come from?

Forfeit: India.

Real answer: Britain!

14934.  Wed Feb 02, 2005 11:08 am Reply with quote

And here's fascinating piece which maintains (with good basis) that even the word curry came into England from India - but got to India from England in the first place before that!

The whole article is interesting, but here's the relevant section:

In the time of Richard I there was a revolution in English cooking . In the better-off kitchens, cooks were regularly using ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, galingale, cubebs, coriander, cumin, cardamom and aniseed, resulting in highly spiced cooking very similar to India. They also had a ‘powder fort’, ‘powder douce’ and ‘powder blanch’.

Then, in Richard II’s reign (1377-1399) the first real English cookery book was written. Richard employed 200 cooks and they, plus others including philosophers, produced a work with 196 recipes in 1390 called ‘The Forme of Cury’. ‘Cury’ was the Old English word for cooking derived from the French ‘cuire’ - to cook, boil, grill - hence cuisine.

In the preface it says this “forme of cury was compiled of the chef maistes cokes of kyng Richard the Secunde kyng of nglond aftir the conquest; the which was accounted the best and ryallest vyand of alle csten ynges: and it was compiled by assent and avysement of maisters and phisik and of philosophie that dwellid in his court. First it techith a man to make commune pottages and commune meetis for howshold, as they shold be made, craftly and holsomly, Aftirward it techith for to make curious potages and meetes and sotiltees for alle maner of states, bothe hye and lowe. And the techyng of the forme of making of potages and of meetes, bothe flesh and of fissh, buth y sette here by noumbre and by ordre”.

In his book ‘Manners and Meals in Olden Times’ (1868) F.J.Furnell noted a passage from a fifteenth century treatise against nouvelle cuisine :

‘Cooks with peire newe conceytes,
choppynge, stampynge and gryndynge
Many new curies alle day pey ar contryvynge
and fyndynge
pat provotethe pe peple to perelles of passage prouz peyne soore pyndynge
and prouz nice excesse of such receytes of pe life to make a endynge.’

So when the English merchants landed at Surat in 1608 and 1612, then Calcutta 1633, Madras 1640 and Bombay 1668, the word ‘cury’ had been part of the English language for well over two hundred years. In fact, it was noted that the meal from Emperor Jahangir’s kitchens of dumpukht fowl stewed in butter with spices, almond and raisins served to those merchants in 1612, was very similar to a recipe for English Chicken Pie in a popular cookery book of the time, ‘The English Hus-wife’ by Gevase Markham. Indeed many spices had been in Europe for hundreds of years by then, after the conquests of the Romans in 40AD and the taking of Al Andulus by the Moors in 711 AD, bringing to Europe the culinary treasures of the spice routes.

Many supporters of the Tamil word kari as the basis for curry, use the definition from the excellent Hobson-Jobson Anglo English Dictionary, first published in 1886. The book quotes a passage from the Mahavanso (c A.D. 477) which says “he partook of rice dressed in butter with its full accompaniment of curries.” The important thing, however, is the note that this is Turnour’s translation of the original Pali which used the word “supa” not the word curry. Indeed Hobson -Jobson even accepts that there is a possibility that “the kind of curry used by Europeans and Mohommedans is not of purely Indian origin, but has come down from the spiced cookery of medieval Europe and Western Asia.”

The author also adds this interesting little nugget, which was new to me:

Around the same time the word "consumer" began to appear which, conversely, was not originally an English word as one might think, but derived from 'Khansaman', the title of the house steward - the chief table servant and purchaser as well as provider of all food in Anglo-Indian households.

14936.  Wed Feb 02, 2005 11:28 am Reply with quote

Around the same time the word "consumer" began to appear which, conversely, was not originally an English word as one might think, but derived from 'Khansaman', the title of the house steward

I don't buy it (pun half-intended). This from (my emphasis):

Consume: c.1380, from L. consumere "to use up, eat, waste," from com- intensive prefix + sumere "to take," from sub- "under" + emere "to buy, take" (see exempt). Economic sense of consumer (opposite of producer) first recorded 1746. Consumerism is from 1944 in the sense of "protection of the consumer's interest;" modern sense of "consumption as an economic policy" is from 1960.

I assume from the article that the "around the same time" refers to 1791.

15096.  Sun Feb 06, 2005 1:19 pm Reply with quote

In Britain, eating curry soon developed into an endurance event and proof of manhood. Forget vindaloo - try Curry Hell at the Curry Capital in Newcastle - if you can eat it all, you don't have to pay for it. It is almost exclusively consumed by gentlemen who have already given generously of their patronage in a variety of sluicing establishments in the city. They generally last for about two forkfuls before throwing up.

15099.  Sun Feb 06, 2005 4:41 pm Reply with quote

I've come across this - it used to feature in Viz all the time. A brilliant piece of marketing.

16146.  Wed Mar 16, 2005 5:50 am Reply with quote

Is the Well Known Fact that the curry house (of the 1960s-80s) in the UK was started by Bangladeshis, not Indians, true? Or indeed, meaningful?

16185.  Thu Mar 17, 2005 5:20 am Reply with quote

Most people have Britain's first “curry house” as the Hindustani Curry House in London:

• Britain's first curry house was the Hindustani Coffee House, opened in 1809 in London's Portman Square. It had a hookah for customers to smoke. (observer)

This was opened by Sake Dean Mahomed, who was born in Patna, the capital of Bihar, which is in India (not Bangladesh).

Mahomed was later to become famous in Brighton by opening the Indian Vapour Baths on the seafront. A biog of the man can be found below:

However, according to the BBC,

95% of curry houses in the UK are run, not by Indians, but Bangladeshis.


The curry boom started here after the Second World War with the first Bangladeshi immigrants.

They often worked their passage in ships' gallies, then started basic curry houses here to cater for their communities.

Britain has around 8,000 curry houses which employ 70,000 people - more than steel, coal and shipbuilding put together.

And finally from the observer again, a pretty tall-tale, but a nice one if true:

The origins of lager-drinking with Indian food are mysterious.

Namita Panjabi has been told that in the early days of Veeraswamy in London's West End, which was founded in 1927, the King of Denmark came whenever he was in the country. Frustrated at not being able to drink Carlsberg - which wasn't then available here - he shipped over a barrel, so that when he came to eat it would be available for him. And so began a great, or not so great, tradition.,9950,711834,00.html

16189.  Thu Mar 17, 2005 6:01 am Reply with quote

So I suppose the answer to "How many indian restaurants are there in Britain?"

Would be in the region of 400, as the rest are Bangladeshi.

16222.  Thu Mar 17, 2005 9:31 pm Reply with quote

But this:
Britain has around 8,000 curry houses which employ 70,000 people - more than steel, coal and shipbuilding put together.

is extraordinary.

16227.  Fri Mar 18, 2005 2:32 am Reply with quote

It can't be close in terms of man-hours, though, surely...

16239.  Fri Mar 18, 2005 7:06 am Reply with quote

No - the curry houses are probably open longer!


Page 1 of 2
Goto page 1, 2  Next

All times are GMT - 5 Hours

Display posts from previous:   

Search Search Forums

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group