Iyer Raghavan’s closing guide is a information by means of curry’s advanced historical past

On the primary day of an internship in 2000, a colleague, upon studying I used to be from India, remarked, “I really like curry.” I mischievously requested, “What sort?” Little did I notice, I’d nonetheless be explaining the complexity of curry twenty years later.

“The phrase curry was nonexistent in any of the languages spoken in India for 1000’s of years till the British set deep colonial roots on this subcontinent,” Raghavan Iyer wrote in what grew to become his closing cookbook, “On the Curry Path: Chasing the Taste That Seduced the World,” a must have for each dwelling cook dinner.

Dishes labeled as curries have lengthy been a gateway into Indian cooking, however too usually they’re outlined merely as recipes with a sauce flavored by “curry powder” — that powder being one thing British colonialists and touring Anglo-Indian naval officers created to simply carry the flavors of Indian meals to the UK. Resulting from this simplification, the time period curry has been misused and misunderstood for many years.

For hundreds of years, spices, recipes and curries traversed the globe with merchants, the enslaved, indentured laborers and people homesick naval officers, and cooking methods and spice blends had been tailored to go well with native palates throughout continents.

Iyer, who died March 31 at age 61, spent most of his life educating the world about Indian meals and cooking. So his guide serves as a closing reference to information us by means of curry’s international travels.

Rajma, India’s purple kidney bean stew, retains me related to dwelling

The guide spoke to me, particularly after I spent years researching regional Indian spice blends for my cookbook, “Masaleydaar,” which is ready to publish in June. I used to be fortunate to accumulate entry to the non-public library of vintage cookbooks belonging to Celia Sack, proprietor of San Francisco’s Omnivore Books, one of many nation’s most complete culinary bookstores.

As I flipped by means of guide after guide, all revealed earlier than 1947, the period when the subcontinent was below British rule, a suspicion was confirmed: The time period “curry” was used for nearly all Indian dishes, and the books, written for non-Indian dwelling cooks, hardly ever acknowledged a recipe’s origin. As an alternative, the authors wrote that to make curry, one would wish many spices, or one of many a number of curry powders or pastes most frequently named for British administrative models or presidencies, akin to Madras curry powder, Calcutta curry powder or Bombay curry powder.

In time, industrial curry powders emerged, capitalizing on this colonial vestige.

Even at present, many cookbooks name for “curry powder” — usually a mix of eight or extra spices that will or might not be applicable for that recipe — ignoring that this one-size-fits-all spice mix was by no means a part of Indian cooking.

In “On the Curry Path,” Iyer takes readers on a journey by means of the diaspora of curry variations outdoors India, with chapters dedicated to Asia, Africa and the Center East, Europe and Oceania, and the Americas. He explores cuisines as merchandise of the colonial spice commerce, spice wars, slave commerce and native entrepreneurship. International locations that traded with spice-growing areas finally put their very own spin on makes use of for these spices. And though every spice influenced native cuisines in another way, Iyer shares their intertwined histories, connecting seemingly disparate geographies.

Iyer, who wrote seven books, together with “660 Curries: The Gateway to Indian Cooking,” noticed that Indian cooks depend on distinctive and regional blends and layer them to construct taste. In “On the Curry Path,” he shares his recipe for Madras curry powder, as its flavors evoke his personal childhood recollections, and he explores the complexities of Trinidad and Tobago curry powder, ras el hanout and berbere, in addition to a trifecta of Thai curry pastes. He additionally illustrates how a number of spices can alter related preparations in numerous components of the world, evaluating niter kibbeh, an Ethiopian spiced clarified butter with Indian ghee, for instance.

In his newest guide, Iyer, a intelligent storyteller, highlights his love of flavors and methods, guiding readers with sensible tricks to create heartwarming dishes akin to Rooster Lemongrass Curry With Potatoes (Vietnam) or Lamb Potato Stew in Bread Bowls (South Africa), He anchors recipes in memorable recollections, acknowledges buddies and neighbors who shared their meals, recommendation and recipes, and accepts his shortcomings.

Graphic illustrations throughout the cookbook, which Iyer wrote whereas being handled for most cancers, liberate readers from the optics of shiny images and meals styling, letting them indulge their imaginations.

Make the recipe: Ca-ri ga (Rooster Lemongrass Curry With Potatoes)

Iyer, who immigrated to Minnesota from Mumbai in 1982 with out understanding the right way to cook dinner, developed right into a culinary skilled who taught dwelling cooks and professionals, led excursions in India and created his personal line of frozen Indian meals. As an advocate for Indian cooking, he acknowledged that one oversimplified spice mix labeled “curry powder” couldn’t stand as an genuine consultant for a nationwide delicacies.

Ignoring the variety of spice blends and related layering methods mutes regional nuances from the delicacies and neglects their evolution. It additionally reinforces antiquated cultural tropes that international cuisines are too advanced to cook dinner from scratch.

Iyer leaves a strong culinary legacy, replete with directions and recommendation, that may proceed to coach dwelling cooks and function an necessary historic document. For that, we owe him a debt of gratitude.

Nandita Godbole writes about Indian delicacies at

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