The late chef Raghavan Iyer, and self-proclaimed curry expert, held the belief that curry has the power to unite the world.
If you were to guess what would bring about world peace, would your first thought have been curry? Probably not, but that’s what the late chef Raghavan Iyer is doing with his book On the Curry Trail: Chasing the Flavor That Seduced the World, at least on a micro-scale, anyway. Iyer’s book is a love letter to food and the people from all over the world (from Europe to Malaysia) who shaped the culture of curry over the last few hundred years.
According to BBC’s World’s Table, Iyer was a chef, cookbook author, culinary teacher, and the ultimate curry expert. Unfortunately, he recently passed away after a long battle with cancer, but he left behind a legacy that shares and teaches Iyer’s passion for curry with people of all cooking skill levels so they can learn how to make the spicy dish in the authentic way Iyer loved.
Iyer’s book, On the Curry Trail, tells the journey of Indian cuisine as it traveled out of India and circled the globe until it had left its mark on every corner of the world. It dives deep into the history of the dish, delving into all the juicy details about how British colonizers were introduced to the food and spilling the tea on how what those colonizers brought back to Europe in their jars full of spices (curry powder) wasn’t authentic curry the way that they had thought it was. Hence, the British ended up misinforming the world about what authentic curry should be for centuries.
After that little mishap in the 1800s, Iyer made it his life’s mission to inform the world on what curry actually is, saying that often he would come across someone who would say that they don’t like curry, and he would respond with, “you are forgetting to add the word powder,” because the dish is so much more than the spices that are included. After all, Iyer knew exactly what authentic curry should be made of, having learned how to make the dish from his Indian family members while growing up in Mumbai.
While the majority of the world thinks of curry spices when visualizing the stewy dish that is often served over rice or naan (mmm, naan), in India, curry typically refers to something that has a sauce and not the specific spices that were used. According to Iyer, the dish can be made with as many as 20 different spices or as few as a single spice added to the dish.
Since Iyer knew that On the Curry Trail would be his last book, he wanted to make it a full and complete love letter to the type of food that he loved so much, saying that curry is much richer and vaster than the simple name would make it seem. So, like the dish it is named after, Iyer’s book is much more than just a cookbook. In addition to easy recipes that are made for chefs of any skill level (from never picking up a wooden spoon before to professional culinarians), On the Curry Trail also features history, folklore, and family ties.
Iyer’s book is an extension of the chef himself and a book made with love about his love for curry. Made with such genuine authenticity, Iyer’s love letter to this spicy dish has the power to unite the world.