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Mar 14, 2009 09:24 PM

Madras Beef Curry

Does anyone know if Madras Beef Curry is a traditional Indian dish or an Anglo-Indian creation?

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  1. What do you mean by "traditional Indian dish"? :)
    Traditional Indian food, like any other, is continuously evolving.

    What do you mean by "Anglo-Indian"? :)

    Do you mean the community of mixed British-Indian origin in India (called Anglo Indians); who originated in the very early days of British arrival in India when British men married Indian women?

    Do you mean the British who were in India during the Raj, who created the concepts "curry" and "curry powder" as understood in the West today?

    Some partial answers:

    "Madras" is a region of Southern India with a huge cuisine of its own. Each dish has (like any dish in Indian cuisine) it's own signature spicing. So, any one dish can't really be a "Madras" this or that.

    The dish was likely created in some Indian restaurant in the UK serving nostalgic Raj retirees, and has trickled back to Indian restaurants in India, and thence to packaged premade foods, home cooks, blogs, etc. These are all pathways to evolving traditions.

    It might have also originated in the Anglo Indian community's cuisine.

    Looking at a few recipes online, the dish has some distinctively Southern Indian elements, such as mustard seeds, curry leaves, tamarind as a souring agent etc.

    And yes, beef is perfectly in keeping with Indian recipes as many Indian communities have 'traditionally' eaten beef.

    Don't know if this answers you? :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Rasam

      My question derives from my search for a good recipe for Madras beef curry. Two of my cookbooks had very different opinions on its origin.

      One seemed to suggest an Anglo Indian or British Indian source:

      “The popular Madras curry served in restaurants in the UK is not to be found anywhere in Madras!”

      The other described an evolution of the dish from pre-Moghul times through the Raj:

      “… long before the arrival of the Moghuls, South India had dishes similar to kormas. These recipes later underwent changes due to the influence of Moghul culture in the south during the seventeenth century.

      … Indian cooks usually make it with the fatty shoulder of the goat. Since this state (Tamil Nadu) is home to a large Christian population, beef, venison, and pork are not uncommon variations on this dish.”

      In any event, my composite recipe turned out very well.

      To me, Anglo Indian covers the early days of the East India Company (ca 1660) through the end of the Raj and the foods that evolved from that contact. Foods such as Kedgeree vs. Kitcheri.

      British Indian, according to a couple of books I’ve just read, pertains to dishes evolving in England from the mid 19th century on and differing from both Indian and Anglo Indian cuisine (e.g., Balti).

      Many thanks for your response.