Imagine as a child if you failed to do the washing up and then tried to give the excuse that the dirty dishes were in fact part of an important historical record.

I suspect most parents would give short shrift to such notions  however it’s thanks to such foresight/laziness that we know the origins of one of Britain’s favourite dishes.

Pottery fragments discovered near Delhi and dating back over 4,000 years were found to have traces of turmeric,  ginger and brinjal (also known as eggplant or aubergine) – the world’s first curry.

The discovery not only demonstrates the creativity of one of the world’s first civilisations but also how curry has adapted to different tastes over the centuries as its popularity has spread across the globe.

Though rice would have been eaten at the time of the first curry, it wasn’t until the 1500s, and the opening of new trade routes, that potatoes would be available to make any Aloo dishes and the same goes for any curries featuring tomatoes or chillies.

In England a classic cookbook by Hannah Glasse printed in 1747 – The Art of Cookery Made Simple – included a recipe for chicken curry and coffee houses of the time started offering curry as a side dish because of its popularity with men returning home after working for the East India Company.

The Hindoostane Coffee House is credited as Britain’s first Indian restaurant and opened in 1810. It closed soon after due to a lack of customers – though a blue plaque now pays tribute to a business that was truly ahead of its time.

The Veeraswamy in London’s Regent Street opened in 1926 and still trades today – laying claim to being Britain’s oldest existing Indian restaurant. It can also claim to be the originator of a classic curry accompaniment – not poppadoms, not naan bread, but the pint of lager.

Notable diners at the Veeraswamy have included Indura Ghandi, Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin and Prince Axel of Denmark who, after enjoying his first visit, returned for second helpings with a barrel of the famous Danish lager – Carlsberg. Other diners enjoyed the combination so the restaurant started importing Carlsberg and as staff moved on to other restaurants they too started serving lager with curries.

Curry was now on a hot streak, with new dishes like Madras, Balti and Tikka Masala proving popular to the taste buds of major conurbations including Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. In 1998 the first national curry week took place an event that now occurs every October and has included a touring bus giving out free curries, the world’s largest poppadom tower and the first ever dress made from poppadoms.

By 2000 you could find a curry house in every British town or city, reaching a peak of 12,000 restaurants employing over 100,000 staff.

Reports suggest this number has now dipped, in part due to the quality of Indian food available in supermarkets and the increasing numbers of people happy to cook at home.

SK Foods offers cuisine from across the globe and our Indian range is no exception, ideal to celebrate National Curry Week 2021. Whether its pakora or bhaji, samosas or keema you’ll find them bursting with flavour – in fact we’re second to naan.

About Sean Flint
Development & Innovation Chef of SK Foods.
Your food. Our Passion.