Jamaican Curry

Curry is thought to have originated as early as 2500 BCE in what is modern-day Pakistan.  Since then, curry has evolved into a truly global food.  It travelled the world through colonization, immigration, indentured labour and trade.  Today, curry is everywhere, from chicken tikka masala in the United Kingdom to fiery green curry in Thailand, kare raisu in Japan and in Jamaica curry goat.

Betapac Jamaican Curry Powder

The name curry evolved from the western Indian word ‘kari’ which the Portuguese colonisers took to mean spiced stew over rice.  Eventually ‘kari’ became ‘caril’ or ‘caree’ in Portuguese, then ‘curry’ in English.

While the British brought curry to their English-speaking colonies, it was Indians themselves who took their eating habits to the rest of the empire. In the nineteenth century, the vast subcontinent, ravaged by disease, famine and poverty, was fertile territory for recruiting soldiers for British armies and agricultural workers for the empire’s sugar, palm oil, coffee and tea plantations.

The abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire in 1807 and of slavery itself in 1833 created a labour shortage.  Understandably former slaves no longer wanted to perform back-breaking plantation work.  To make up for the labour shortage the British enlisted indentured laborers from the Indian subcontinent, that included India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.  Between 1834 and 1917 some 36,000 Indians emigrated to Jamaica.  It is often reported that the concept of curry powder arrived in Jamaica with these immigrants.   

Jamaican Curry Seasoning

The flavour of Jamaican curry powder is similar, but not the same as other curry powder blends.  As you can guess, the differences include the addition of pimento (allspice) and scotch bonnet peppers.  Pimento adds a woodsy and piney note.  In addition, Jamaican curry powder will usually not have the strong red pepper component found in a Madras curry since the heat is usually added to the dish separately in the form of fresh scotch bonnet peppers.

You may not be aware that curry has health benefits.  Jamaican curry powder contains multiple spices that are good sources of important nutrients. Those nutrients include:

  • Vitamins: Pimento and turmeric both contain moderate levels of vitamin C, while cumin contains vitamin B-1. Turmeric also contains a significant amount of vitamin B-6. Other B vitamins are also present in trace amounts.
  • Minerals: Pimento contains a moderate level of calcium and a high level of manganese. Turmeric and cumin have high levels of both iron and manganese. There are trace amounts of other minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, and copper.
  • Dietary fibre: Each of the spices used in Jamaican curry powder contains moderate amounts of dietary fibre, which means that the spice blend should add some fibre to your diet.
Curry Goat

It is reported that the nutrients in Jamaican curry powder can help to treat or prevent health conditions like:

  • Diabetes: Studies have found that the curcumin in turmeric can help to prevent sharp blood sugar spikes and to improve insulin sensitivity. Both of these can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Cancer: The curcumin found in turmeric can be beneficial for preventing cancer in its earliest stages. It is often used as a part of anti-cancer therapy as a way to prevent recurrence of the disease.
  • Poor digestion: Curry powder stimulates the secretion of stomach acid, which can improve digestion. Pimento and cumin are also known to be beneficial for good digestion.

In Jamaica curry powder is commonly used to season goat meat for curried goat, which is often considered to be Jamaica’s second national dish.  Pimento and other strong spices can tame the gaminess of goat.  Curries are also made using chicken, ackee and other vegetables, seafood, beef and pork. 

We invite you to prepare a Jamaican curry dish.

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