A dish like curry is often featured in the diverse Indian cuisine. The interesting fact here is that the word curry itself has British origins. Historians have found old English words like cury and currey to be linked to curry. That makes one wonder whether curry is actually Indian or not. For the uninitiated, curry is simply a culmination of spices which forms a gravy-like consistency. One such hot curry whose origins date back to 200 years is Jalfrezi. 

For a better understanding, let us break down the word Jalfrezi into two. Derived from two Bengali words, Jhal or jal means spicy and frezi refers to stir-fry. If you haven’t been touched by the phenomenon of Jalfrezi, we’ll tell you that it is a combination of stir-fried vegetables or meat cooked along with green chilli peppers and onions. It forms a thick gravy that is relished as a side-dish. So when we have several curries in place, what was the need for a Jalfrezi? 

Days Of British Raj And The Jalfrezi 

Historical traces of the origins of Jalfrezi point us towards the period of British rule in India. For over 200 years, India was a colony of the British and it was only in 1947 that it gained independence from the colonizers. During this period, the British Governors had several Indians working for them, especially as servants. Their extravagant lifestyles and lavish parties were a common sight during that time which meant that loads of feasts were prepared. This meant that there would be abundant leftovers after a celebration or gathering. This food couldn’t be wasted so the Indian servants were left to finish it. 

Now, we are very well-aware of the distinct flavours and tastes of the Indian palate. Since the food of the English elite was believed to have been bland and dry, the cooks decided to spruce things up a little. The chefs were largely Mogs, belonging to a particular tribe of present-day Bangladesh. They fried the cold cuts and cooked them together with onions and green chillies. The onions absorbed the flavours of the meat and what we finally got was a quick and delicious fiery curry made from leftovers. 

Calcutta was the epicentre of the British Raj during the 1850s and it was the then Governor of Bengal, Lord Marcus Sandys who has been credited with the invention of this dish. References of jalfrezi can be found in several Anglo-Indian cookbooks which are proof of its popularity in Britain. Largely an Indian technique, the jalfrezi gradually travelled from the middle-class English kitchens to the elite, traversing boundaries and social classes. 

Today, from vegetables to chicken and paneer, there is nothing that can’t be clubbed with this pungent curry from Eastern India.