Checking out local cuisine is just as important as any other tourist activity when traveling! It’s one of the best ways to experience the local culture of your destination, and really immerse yourself – and your taste buds – in what makes it unique.
Everywhere you go has its own unique cuisine, filled with local ingredients and traditions that have been passed down for generations. But there’s one kind of food that tends to be found all over the globe, and it’s not necessarily from anywhere in particular: curry.
Although curry dishes around the world are all rooted in Indian traditions, what we often think of as “curry” isn’t exactly Indian at all. It’s more of a hodgepodge that can be traced back through colonization, migration, and more. It’s decidedly a global dish.
As it has spread all over the globe, each country has developed its own rich take on it. And let me tell you, they’re all amazing.
If you consider yourself a lover of curry dishes, do yourself a favor and try curry in these five countries!
Curry as Westerners know it came into existence through Britain’s colonial rule over India. So, naturally, the curry here belongs on this list. Brits have been head-over-heels with curry since those imperialist days, and it’s now frequently ranked as their favorite food. In fact, curry is so popular across the United Kingdom that it’s often called the “adopted national dish.”
There are hundreds of curry houses in London and Birmingham alone, and popular recipes include biryani, korma, vindaloo, and sambar. Britain’s most-loved curry dish, though, is the ever-popular chicken tikka masala, which is composed of chicken tikka served in a creamy curry sauce. It’s similar to India’s butter chicken.
In Thailand, you’ll find curries are called kaeng. They typically consist of meat, fish, or vegetables in a sauce made with chilies, onions, garlic, and shrimp paste. You’ll also find local Thai ingredients such as kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and more. Southern Thai curries will use coconut milk, while Northern Thai curries usually do not.
Thai curries are a colorful variety. Curries made with red chilies or chili powder are red, and spicier green curries are made with (you guessed it) green chilies. Yellow curries get their golden color from turmeric, and these are more similar to Indian curries.
Outside of these, though, is the iconic Massaman curry. It has a unique Persian influence, marrying traditional Thai flavors with Middle Eastern and Indian spices.
During the colonial era, an influx of people migrated from the Indian subcontinent to South Africa. Now, South Africa is a hot spot for a variety of curries, such as Natal curry, bunny chow, and Durban curry.
Durban chicken curry is a great introduction to South African curries. It comes from the city Durban, the largest city in Kwazulu Natal, which boasts the largest population of Indians outside of India. The curry incorporates tomatoes, curry leaves, sweet spices like cinnamon or cloves, and cayenne pepper – which gives it a little more heat than other kinds of curry.
However, bunny chow is definitely a uniquely South African curry dish. This curry dish consists of a hollowed-out loaf of bread that is filled up with curry!
Are you surprised to see Japan on a list of places to try curry? While Japan probably doesn’t cross many people’s minds as one of the best countries to try curry, it definitely deserves a spot on this list.
Although the country does not have any colonial connections to India and has typically shunned other food cultures for most of its history, Japan loves its curry dishes. Apparently, by 2000, curry was a more frequent meal for Japanese people than classics like sushi or tempura.
Japan has some really delicious takes on curry dishes, so I guess I’m not surprised at its popularity. Ingredients usually include potatoes, carrots, onions, and meat. Unlike the traditional Indian choice of chicken or mutton, Japanese curry usually features pork, beef, or even seafood.
Japanese curry, or karē, is most commonly served in three ways: curry over rice, curry udon noodles, and curry bread (a curry-filled pastry). And in recent years, curry ramen has been rising in popularity!
Obviously, it wouldn’t be a complete list without including India. You’ll find some of the world’s best curry dishes here, although what we call “curry” isn’t really called that in India. That term was actually invented by the British during their rule over the Indian subcontinent. It serves as a sort-of blanket term that covers a lot of different dishes, but it’s not Indian. There’s no such word in any of the country’s many languages.
You’ll soon realize that curry acts as a catchall for various ragouts and saucy stews that are based on Indian cuisine. That’s why, when in India, you should skip asking for curry. Instead, you’ll find dishes with their own individual names, like malai kofta, matar paneer, or chicken tikka.
Still, India is the birthplace of all the different curries out there. It’s safe to say that you’ll find some of the best dishes in the world here. The ingredients and style of preparation will vary depending on different regions – but no matter where you are in India, it is all guaranteed to be delicious.