A group of food bloggers say you should avoid the term curry when used to describe South Asian dishes because of its racist overtones.
The term curry does an injustice to South Asian cuisine. That’s according to a food blogger who wants people who don’t know what it means to stop using it.
When I hear the term curry, I think of spices. What most know as curry powder is actually a mixture of several spices you’ll commonly find in South Asian dishes. Those spices include ground turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger and fresh and dried chilies. In India, the curry leaf is also an important part of recipes.
But when many others talk about a curry, they’re using the term far more generically. They use it to refer to any type of dish that happens to have a gravy or thick sauce.
But that covers a lot of ground. In fact, it covers far too much ground, food blogger Chaheti Bansal said in an Instagram video. That video recorded more than 3.6 million views so far.
“There’s a saying that the food in India changes every 100 kilometers and yet we’re still using this umbrella term popularised by white people who couldn’t be bothered to learn the actual names of our dishes,” she says in the video.
I can’t help but think that her rant sounds a bit racist.
She told NBC News Asia she doesn’t want the term canceled entirely. But she doesn’t seem to be the only Indian or South Asian cook who is fed up with the term’s usage for dishes like chawals, sambars, subzis and bajjis.
How often have you heard of any of those terms?
Chef Sanjyot Singh Keer, a former producer of MasterChef India, told The Independent that Indian cuisine is “much more than just curry.”
‘Curry’ has British origin
As one theory goes, British Colonialists may have misheard the term kari which referred to a sauce. Its first use dates back to the mid-18th century when members of the East India Company traded with Tamil merchants in southeastern India.
I don’t have much experience with Indian food.
But if I were going to refer to an Indian dish, I’d certainly call it by its right name. But there’s a catch. Those of us who aren’t part of a certain ethnic group aren’t going to know such terminology as well as those who are.
If I go to an Indian restaurant that refers to a specific dish as a curry, that’s all I’ll know to call it.
When I go to my favorite Mexican restaurant, my go-to dish is arroz con pollo. It translates literally to “rice with chicken,” but we’d probably call it “chicken and rice.”
I call it arroz con pollo. I call it that because that’s its name.
If I had a favorite Indian dish, I’d call it what the restaurant calls it. Or whatever Indian friend prepared it for me calls it.
But if we don’t know a food’s ethnic history, we won’t necessarily know what to call it. No matter what color we are. We’ll call it what the menu or what the grocery store or what food bloggers call it.
As long as we receive the right information, those of us who try to be respectful of other cultures will reflect that information.
I’m glad people who have this cuisine as part of their culture are working to better educate the rest of us. The rest of us should pay attention and use the right names for ethnic cuisine.
I just wish those who seem to be so angry might consider that until now, most people who have offended them did so unwillingly, just because they haven’t known any better.