Curry is the English description of any of a general variety of spicy dishes, best-known in Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Nepali, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, and other South Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines, though curry has been adopted into all of the mainstream cuisines of the Asia-Pacific region. Along with tea, curry is one of the few dishes or drinks that is truly “Pan-Asian”, but specifically, its roots come from India. The concept of curry was later brought to the West by British colonialists in India from the 18th century.

The term curry (in Tamil meaning mixed vegetable stew) is most likely an anglicized name for Kari, derived from the usage of “Kari” in the Tamil language and other South Indian Dravidian languages, to connote some of the stew/gravy-like dishes eaten with rice. The term is now used more broadly, especially in the Western world, to refer to almost any spiced, sauce-based dishes cooked in various south and southeast Asian styles.

Though each curry has a specific name, generically any wet side dish made out of vegetables and/or meat is historically referred to as a 'curry' – especially those yellow, Indian-inspired powders and sauces with high proportions of turmeric. The dishes are given specific names that indicate the meat and/or vegetable, method of cooking, or the particular spices used. Not all curries are made from curry powder; in India the word 'curry' is heavily used in the southern part of India in languages such as Tamil, which is analogous to “sabji” in the north.

The spice mixes are known as “masala”. Curry powder and Garam masala are both masalas. Most dishes involving lentils or dried beans are called dal in the north, or are referred to by a name specific to the spices used in the preparation. There is a particular north Indian and Pakistani dish, which is given the name kadi and uses yoghurt, ghee, and besan.

In Northern India and Pakistan, the word “curry” usually means “gravy”, likely because it sounds similar to the word “tari” (which means “gravy” in many North Indian and Pakistani languages and comes from root Tur which means 'wet' in Urdu and Persian).

Bengali dishes called “Torkari” or vegetables stewed/dry in gravy is another potential source for the anglicized “curry” since the British occupation of India started in Bengal before Madras. Another theory is that the root word for curry is “Kadhi”, which derives from the term “Kadhna” meaning “to simmer” or “Karahi” denoting the cooking vessel used in Indian kitchens.

Indian Curries

Most Indian curries are fried in vegetable oil. In North and West India, groundnut oil is traditionally been most popular for frying, while in Eastern India, Mustard oil is more commonly used. In South India, coconut oil and Gingelly Oil is common. In recent decades, sunflower oil and soybean oil have gained popularity all over India. Hydrogenated vegetable oil, known as Vanaspati ghee, is also a popular cooking medium that replaces Desi ghee (clarified butter). The term “curry” is usually understood to mean “gravy” in India, rather than “spices.”

Bengali Curries

Bengali cuisine includes a plethora of curries that are little known to the outside world. They are known for their extreme spiciness. Authentic Bengali recipes are difficult to find outside Bengali kitchens, although certain dishes are popular, for example, the jhalfrezis and the prawn malai curry. Seafood and fresh fish are a great favourite with Bengalis, and a dazzling array of curries has been devised to accompany them. Mustard seeds and mustard oil are added to many recipes, so are poppy seeds, and these are flavours highly specific to the Bengali curries. Unlike other Indian curries, Bengali curries differ from the later derived recipes in depending on the addition of spices and herbs, as well as fresh ginger and garlic, during different stages of cooking to bring out the final flavour. In contrast, the use of prepared curry pastes covers only a small part of the flavour added.

Bangladeshi Curries

Bangladeshi cuisine has considerable regional variations. These include lots of Bengals cuisine but are known more for their original spiciness compared to Indian Bengali Cuisine. The heavy use of coconut milk is refined to the district of Khulna and Kommilla. A staple across the country is rice and fish. As a large percentage of the land in Bangladesh (over 80% on some occasions) can be under water, fish is the major source of protein in the Bangladeshi diet. The widely popular British curry dish chicken tikka masala was likely produced by Sylheti chefs.

Pakistani Curries

A favourite Pakistani curry is Karahi, either mutton or chicken cooked in a dry sauce. Lahori Karahi incorporates garlic, spices and vinegar. Peshawari karahi is a simple dish made with just meat, salt, tomatoes and coriander.

Sri Lankan Curries

Sri Lankan cuisine mostly consists of rice and curry meals, and revolves heavily around chilies, spices, vegetables, and seafood.

British Curries

In British cuisine, the word curry was primarily used to denote a sauce-based dish flavoured with curry powder or a paste made from the powder and oils. However, the resurgence of interest in food preparation in the UK in recent years has led to much more use of fresh spices such as ginger and garlic, and preparation of an initial masala from freshly ground dried spices, though pastes and powders are still frequently used for convenience.

The first curry recipe in Britain appeared in The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse in 1747. The first edition of her book used only pepper and coriander seeds for seasoning of 'currey'. By the fourth edition of the book other relatively common ingredients of turmeric and ginger were used. The use of hot spices was not mentioned, which reflected the limited use of chili in India – chili plants had only been introduced into India around the late 15th century and at that time were only popular in southern India. Many curry recipes are contained in 19th century cookbooks such as those of Charles Elme Francatelli and Mrs Beeton. In Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, a recipe for curry powder is given that contains coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne, mustard, ginger, allspice and fenugreek; although she notes that it is more economical to purchase the powder at 'any respectable shop'.

The popularity of curry among the general public was enhanced by the invention of 'Coronation chicken' to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Curry sauce (or curry gravy) is a British use of curry as a condiment, usually served warm with traditional British fast food dishes such as chips. Curry sauce occasionally would include sultanas.

The popularity of curry in the UK encouraged the growth of Indian restaurants. Until the early 1970s more than three quarters of Indian restaurants in Britain were identified as being owned and run by people of Bengali origin. Most were run by migrants from East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh in 1971. Bangladeshi restaurateurs overwhelmingly come from the northern district of Sylhet. Until 1998, as many as 85% of curry restaurants in the UK were Bangladeshi restaurants but in 2003 this figure declined to just over 65%. Currently the dominance of Bangladeshi restaurants is generally declining in some parts of London and the further north one travels. In Glasgow there are more restaurants of Punjabi origin than any other.

Regardless of the ethnic origin of a restaurant's ownership, the menu will often be influenced by the wider Indian subcontinent (sometimes including Nepalese dishes), and sometimes cuisines from further afield (such as Persian dishes). Some British variations on Indian food are now being exported from the UK to India. British-style curry restaurants are also popular in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In a relatively short space of time curry has become an integral part of British cuisine, so much so that, since the late 1990s, Chicken Tikka Masala has been commonly referred to as the “British national dish”. It is now available (albeit in frozen, microwavable form) on Intercity rail trains, as a flavour for crisps, and even as a pizza topping. Balti Curries
A style of curry thought to have been developed in Birmingham, England which has spread to other western countries.

Indonesian Curries
In Indonesian, gulai and kari or kare is based on curry. They are often highly localised and reflect the meat and vegetables available. They can therefore employ a variety of meats (chicken, beef, water buffalo and goat as in the flavoursome 'gulai kambing'), seafood (prawn, crab, mussel, clam, squid etc), fish or vegetable dishes in a spiced sauce. They use local ingredients such as chili peppers, Kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, Galangal, Indonesian bay leaves or salam leaves, candlenuts, turmeric, shrimp paste (terasi), cumin, coriander seed and coconut milk. One popular curry is rendang from West Sumatran cuisine, not Malaysia as is claimed in many British restaurants. Authentic rendang uses water buffalo slow-cooked in thick coconut milk over a number of hours to tenderise and flavour the meat. In Aceh, curries use daun salam koja or daun kari (translated as 'curry leaves'). Opor Ayam is another kind of curry.

Malaysian Curries

Being at the crossroad of the ancient trade routes has left a unique mark on the Malaysian cuisine. Practically everything on the Asian menu can be found here, and the local fare is also a reflection of its multi-cultural, multi-ethnic heritage. While the curry may have initially found its way to Malaysian shores via the Indian population, it has since become a staple among the Malays and Chinese too. Malaysian curries differ from state to state, even within similar ethnic groupings as they are influenced by the many factors, be it cultural, religious, agricultural or economical.

Malaysian curries typically use curry powders rich in turmeric, coconut milk, shallots, ginger, belacan (shrimp paste), chilies, and garlic. Tamarind is also often used. Rendang is another form of curry consumed in Malaysia, although it is drier and contains mostly meat and more coconut milk than a conventional Malaysian curry. All sorts of things are curried in Malaysia, including goat, chicken, shrimp, cuttlefish, fish, fish head, eggplant, eggs, and mixed vegetables. So rich and different are the flavours that today Malaysian-themed restaurants are mushrooming globally from Canada to Australia, and Malaysian curry powders too are now much sought-after internationally.

Thai Curries

In Thai cuisine, curries are meat, fish or vegetable dishes in a spiced sauce. They use local ingredients such as chilies, Kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, Galangal and coconut milk, and tend to be more aromatic than Indian curries as a result. Curries are often described by colour; red curries use red chilies while green curries use green chilies. Yellow curries are more similar to Indian curries, with their use of turmeric and cumin. Yellow curries in Thailand usually don't contain potatoes except in southern style cooking, however, Thai restaurants abroad usually have them. Thais in Thailand are often surprised when foreigners expect potatoes. Yellow curry is also called gaeng curry (by various spellings), of which a word-for-word translation would be “soup curry” or “curry curry”, though the former translation is technically more correct.

Chinese Curries

Chinese curries typically consist of green peppers, chicken, beef, fish, lamb, or other meats, onions, large chunks of potatoes, and a variety of other ingredients and spices in a mildly spicy yellow curry sauce, and topped over steamed rice. White pepper, soy sauce, hot sauce, and/or hot chili oil may be applied to the sauce to enhance the flavour of the curry. Chinese curry is popular in North America, and there are many different varieties of Chinese curry, depending on each restaurant. Unlike other Asian curries, which usually have a thicker consistency, Chinese curry is often watery in nature. 'Galimian,' or 'curry noodles,' are also a popular Chinese curry dish.

Japanese Curries

Japanese curry is one of the most popular dishes in Japan, where people eat it 62 times a year according to a survey. It is usually thicker, sweeter, and not as hot as its Subcontinental equivalent. It is usually eaten as kar? raisu – curry, rice and often pickled vegetables, served on the same plate and eaten with a spoon, a common lunchtime canteen dish.

Curry was introduced to Japan by the British in the Meiji era (1869-1913) after Japan ended its policy of national self-isolation (Sakoku), and curry in Japan is categorized as a Western dish. Its spread across the country is commonly attributed to its use in the Japanese Army and Navy which adopted it extensively as convenient field and naval canteen cooking, allowing even conscripts from the remotest countryside to experience the dish. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force still traditionally have curry every Friday for lunch and many ships have their own unique recipes.

The standard Japanese curry contains onions, carrots, potatoes and a meat. Sometimes grated apples or honey are added for additional sweetness and other vegetables are sometimes used instead. For the meat, pork, beef and chicken are the most popular, in order of decreasing popularity. In northern and eastern Japan including Tokyo, pork is the most popular meat for curry. Beef is more common in western Japan, including Osaka, and in Okinawa chicken is favored.

Sometimes the curry-rice is topped with breaded pork cutlet (tonkatsu); this is called Katsu-kar? (“cutlet curry”). Korokke (potato croquettes) are also a common topping.

Apart from with rice, kar? udon (thick noodles in curry flavoured soup) and kar?-pan (“curry bread”