The enunciation of the word curry instantly transports our minds to a bowl of thick gravy, made with a variety of ingredients. In fact, curry is so central to Indian cooking that each region boasts of more than one type of this dish. Etymologically speaking, curry is derived from a Tamilian word ‘kari’ which means sauce. The anglicized tone of the term finds mention in cookbooks of the mid-17th century under the rule of British East India Company, like Hannah Glasse’s 18th century cookery book that spells it as currey. It came to be understood as a spice blend of sorts or curry powder. With the word itself taking derivatives from regional Indian languages, how can the first curry be cooked far away from Indian land? 

Based on evidence from several researches carried out in this area, it has been deduced that the world’s oldest known curry was made in Farmana, a small village in present-day Haryana. This archaeological site was excavated by researchers at the Washington State University in Vancouver in 2010 and they found traces of starch on the earthen pots at this place. From what was once a part of the Harappan civilization, the archaeologists analyzed the remains of starch from a bulbous handi (ancient pot) that was recovered from the site. 

From pots to tools and dental enamel, several objects were found and it was the molecular thumbprints of certain vegetables and spices on these that led them towards concrete evidence. The starch analysis was a further step in this direction where the handi revealed that brinjals aka aubergines were cooked to form the world’s oldest curry. 

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This primitive and basic curry utilized three key ingredients, brinjals, turmeric and ginger which validates the claim that brinjals are native to the Indian subcontinent as are ginger and turmeric. The Sanskrit names of these items also seems to predate the language and it is believed that the frugal brinjal curry from Harappa is the oldest living evidence of curry in the world, making it about 4000 years old. 

Do you want to make the world’s oldest known curry at home for lunch? Here’s a recipe with some variations that you can try.