Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors” as Want to Read:
Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  685 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
Curry serves up a delectable history of Indian cuisine, ranging from the imperial kitchen of the Mughal invader Babur to the smoky cookhouse of the British Raj.
In this fascinating volume, the first authoritative history of Indian food, Lizzie Collingham reveals that almost every well-known Indian dish is the product of a long history of invasion and the fusion of differen
Paperback, 315 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published August 4th 2005)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Curry, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Curry

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 03, 2016 Alex marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Lise digs it and it does look awesome.
Sep 05, 2011 Rebecca rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Some history books do not so much alter your worldview as fill your head with a plethora of interesting trivia, some of which you will spout at your friends for a few days, and most of which will disappear in a month or two. Regrettably, I think most of the interesting factoids I've learned from this book are doomed to such a fate.

The book is a little disjointed--I often felt as if the author was on the verge of a grand unifying theory but could not quite wrap her arms around it. Instead, it stu
Sep 05, 2007 monig rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Indophiles, Anglophiles, Postcolonialists
I thought this was a good book and worth the read if you're an Indophile, but I do have some criticism.

Collingham gives us a quick and dirty history of curry, which ends up of being the history of India, the spice trade, imperialism and colonialism (particularly the British colonization of the region), as well as the immigration of Indians to Britain and the Americas. Obviously, that's much to cover in one 250+ page book ... too much to cover.

I felt like I was being whisked through a historical
Jul 28, 2007 Ken rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: chowistas / imperialists

This was a fascinating exploration of the foods that I've come to think of as Indian, and how those foods have been influenced by worldwide trade and imperialism. The book itself is organized by chapters: Chicken Tikka Masala, Biryani, Chai, etc., and each chapter delves into a rough history of each dish and its influences. Much to my surprise, many historical recipes and contemporary recipes are included as well, in case one wished to execute a variation of a dish in one's own kitchen.

After rea
Pablo Roman
Nov 21, 2014 Pablo Roman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such a lovely, well written book. The author can really tell a story that is really engaging. Her historical facts about the development of much loved Indian cuisine is peppered with really interesting asides and anecdotes. At times it feels like you're going down a rabbit's warren - but that's the beauty of it! History isn't all dates and emotionless facts particularly not history about food!
This book is truly delicious!
May 14, 2012 Aspasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Curry as Westerners know it is not the same curry as used in India. Collingham explains the historical significance behind India's most popular dishes along with a chapter on the history of tea. The Portuguese and British occupations of India along with the tide of history have brought curry to England and the US with many hybridizations along the way.
Aug 16, 2007 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foodbooks
Great book about the history of Indian cooking. I nevered realized that I was really eating mostly British concoctions that Indians have adopted over the years. I think I read the book in a couple of days, I enjoyed it so much.
Nov 09, 2011 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Lizzie Collingham needs to focus.
Priyanka Patnaik
Nov 17, 2016 Priyanka Patnaik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful book. I got to learn so much about the Indian History and how it has evolved the indian cooking. Just that , since it is like a lot of information to take, so I couldn't complete it in one shot. I had to take breaks. Read a fiction and then read the second half of the book.
Feb 09, 2017 Sherri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ends Abruptly

Rich details of the culinary anthropology of the intersection of cuisines that occurred in colonial India. Would have enjoyed more if effort were made to end this more gracefully.
I dunno, I just didn't get into it. There was nothing particularly wrong with it, but I wasn't engaged and there are other books I'd rather be reading. Probably won't go back to finish it.
Nov 26, 2016 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
What fun! A book that traces the influences of foreigners on Indian cuisine and vice versa. A little bit of history, a little bit of cookery, the only thing missing is the gastroporn.
Feb 18, 2017 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good history of Indian food and where different specialties come from. Read this while I was in India and found it helpful not just to learn about the food but history of different regions too.
Commander Law
Oct 24, 2016 Commander Law rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india
First few chapters of interest, but waned there after.
Oct 19, 2010 Othello rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scholarly work on Indian cuisine from a historical perspective. Excerpts from 15th and 16th century accounts of European travelers are a treat to read. One may observe how written English changed across centuries, in the excerpts that the author posted verbatim.
I must say the author has done an enormous amount of research for this book. Almost every important statement is backed by a reference to the book or essay in the (chapter-wise) bibliography at the end. It's almost as if the author has tr
Sunil Maulik
Jan 24, 2012 Sunil Maulik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An informative, witty and fast moving culinary history of the South Asian subcontinent, Lizzie Collingham's meticulously researched description of the cuisine of the region is a sumptuous and easily digested delight. Moving sprightly between Persia, Afghanistan, Portugal, the New World, East Africa and India, she teases out truth from fiction on the origin and evolution of many "Indian" dishes that were, in fact, formed under the influence of successive waves of invasions and settlements. I'm no ...more
May 23, 2015 Shikha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: south-asia
A solid three. Lizzie Collingham describes what has already been proven in other areas, such as language, religion, and traditions -- that South Asian cuisine is ever-evolving, influenced by so many who have come through and conquered the subcontinent over hundreds and hundreds of years. So many fascinating details - the relatively recent arrival of what are now ubiquitous Indian ingredients, such as tomatoes, onions, and chillies. One of the more interesting factoids - that the British successf ...more
Sep 12, 2016 Fern rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative and entertaining history of the evolution of Indian cooking. Must try out the recipes included in the pages.
Denise Spicer
A really interesting and informative look at the history and development of curry and other Indian foods and the influence of various waves of rulers on these foods. Muslims in the 12th century the Portuguese in the 1500s and the British in the 1800s all had effects on the food. Interesting chapter on the history of tea and the marketing tactics used to convince the Indian population to drink tea. Lots of recipes included.
Apr 06, 2011 Emma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My sister is such an avid reader, so much more than I am, and she’s an excellent cook. When she recommended me this book, I did not hesitate. And I was not disappointed at all.
This book is so delicious: a great mix of history, culture, and cuisine, including recipes.
It was fascinating to discover how the Indian cuisines, and be sure to notice the -s, evolved all along the centuries depending on the invaders in this or that region.
A very interesting point that the author makes is that if Indians
Jan 20, 2017 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dense and occasionally complex to follow, this is an interesting cultural history of Indian food. It clearly demonstrates that any attempt to reconstruct "authentic" cuisines is ultimately silly. Several bits from the book stick out in my mind. Chai was developed because the British were attempting to encourage Indians to consume tea; Chai actually undermined it because it used less tea than the conventional forms. Now, we are sold Chai as an authentic Indian drink.

But, most pointedly perhaps,
Jun 19, 2007 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Food Geeks
I really enjoyed this book. I thought I was picking up only a history of Indian cuisine, I was happy to discover this book is an expansive study of the evolution Indian food. The author explores the effect India had on British cuisine, history and eating habits in equal detail as the influence of Britain on Indian foods and culture. I was surprised to learn that the British introduced the habit of tea drinking to India . Collingham details a myriad of other cultures that contributed to India's ...more
Aug 25, 2011 Malavika rated it really liked it
This was a perfect end-of-summer book. True, it's an academic work, but it's fun, interesting and quite the page-turner. The book is divided into chapters that focus on a different "Indian" dish -- vindaloo, korma etc. -- and carefully pieces together how the dish was first created, when it became popular and the historical background surrounding the dish's introduction. It's a fascinating look at the history of India, the history of food, and how the food most people recognize as "Indian food" ...more
Sep 17, 2013 Neetu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lovely read about the evolution of Indian cuisine as we know it today. This is a history book with a difference. The routes taken by the different ingredients as they travelled in the bags of the conquerors of India are evocatively traced. The potatoes and chillies from South America that came via the Dutch and Portuguese, the hing, the leavened breads, the marinated meats from Persia, the coffee with the Arab traders and the tea in the trunks of the British Raj, this book traces the transform ...more
Aug 10, 2014 Alicia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an easy read filled with fun facts as it traces the development of Indian food. I can't think of a more fascinating cuisine than Indian, shaped by regional tastes, religious concepts of purity, and new ingredients introduced by foreigners.

Three snippet facts which interested me most in this book:

1. The idea that foods grown in the native soil imbue the strength and energy of that soil to the eater.
2. The Indian origins of Worcestershire sauce and how it was 'invented'.
3. How at the begi
Feb 07, 2013 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly enjoyable book about Indian food. This 'tale' of cooks and conquerors is a history of what one could call fusion cuisine. Cultures that 'sort of' conquered others did not impose their food preparations and habits onto those conquered. The environment affected the food stuffs used and how they were prepared. Yet conquerors also introduced new food stuffs. Chilies, tomatoes, and potatoes are not indigenous to the Asian sub-continent but have become a well established part of some regi ...more
Sep 14, 2008 Tooba rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far an amazing journey into the history of "India" via food...Who knew that the Spanish/Protuguese Inquisition reached India. It is engrossing.

Finished it, lots of time on the commuter stimulated my mind, and my appetite. Interesting side notes on the history of Britian and India. It is mostly a Britian centric book with an aside to the SE Asian diaspora in other countries. It could have been a lengthier text and still kept my interest.
I appreciated even more what I grew up with
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it really liked it
This is food history, done really well. Collingham pieces together the iconic dish through the religious taboos and agricultural resources of ancient India, adds Middle Eastern cooking techniques from the Mughals, shows what happens when chilies arrive from Latin America via the Portuguese, Anglicizes it to the tastes of the East India Company nabobs through their house servants, imports curry powder back to Britain for said nabobs who retire, sees the dish trickle down to as cheap, filling food ...more
Jun 12, 2007 Anie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in Indian food and culture
I liked this book a great deal. It's a nice overview of foreign influence on Indian food, from the Mughals to the British. Of course, one cannot simply list "and they borrowed this from them" and have anything compelling. The book is a combination of the more "important" history (your landings, invasions, and politics) and the attendant cultural change - seen so strongly in the foods one adopts or fails to adopt from a foreign land. Collingham is a good writer and the book flows well. Very, very ...more
Saju  Pillai
Nov 03, 2010 Saju Pillai rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
My recent weight gain is completely this book's fault.

Lizzie Collingham cooks up a most potent book using equal measures of History and Food. The stories of Indian marquee foods and marquee conquerors of India is very well told. Biryani, Vindaloo, Korma, Curry, Tikka Masala & Chai are examined in detail at the dinner tables of the Mughals, Nawabs, Portugese, Company Bahadurs, & the British. Several assumptions of the casual Indian foodie are questioned and authentic recipes from histori
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Bittersweet: The Story of Sugar
  • The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice
  • Food: The History of Taste
  • Food in History
  • Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking
  • Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami
  • Beans: A History
  • Spice: The History of a Temptation
  • In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food
  • Absinthe: History in a Bottle
  • The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World
  • The Story of Corn
  • London (Lonely Planet Guide)
  • Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World's Favorite Flavor and Fragrance
  • The True History of Chocolate
  • The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture
  • That's That: A Memoir
  • Our Kind of People: A Continent's Challenge, A Country's Hope
Dr. Elizabeth M. Collingham has lectured at Warwick University and been a reasearch fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge.
More about Lizzie Collingham...

Share This Book