Why is curry so popular in the UK?

It’s National Curry Week in the UK. This is a week-long celebration that was started in 1998 to celebrate the Indian restaurant industry, raise money for charities focused on doing away with poverty, and honour the nation’s favourite cuisine.


But why, of all the cuisines in the world, is curry so popular in the UK? So popular that it can be described as “the nation’s favourite cuisine”. Is it a result of globalisation? Is it a product of immigration? Or something else completely? Read on to find out.

Popular curry in the UK

The Early Days of Curry in the UK

If you think curry in the UK is a modern phenomenon, think again! All the way back in the 18th century, British bureaucrats and traders who had spent time in India (at the time a British colony) wanted to continue enjoying curries when they returned home. Some well-off Britons even brought private Indian chefs back to the UK to cook for them. This was the beginning of the British love affair with curry. In these early days, though, the curries served in England were very different from today. They were much more bland and far less authentic. Many of the spices and ingredients needed for curries weren’t available in this country. Chefs had to use dry spices with less flavour, and replace exotic ingredients like tamarind juice and mangoes, with more common things like lemon juice and apples. All in all, things were a bit strange back then.

After World War II

It wasn’t until after World War II that curry became so popular in the UK. At this time many South Asians immigrated to Great Britain and brought with them their languages, culture, music and, most influentially, food. Today over 3 million South Asians from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, live in the UK. Many of these immigrants opened shops and restaurants where they served curries. As time went on, ingredients became more available, and their popularity grew, curry in the UK became more like the real thing in India. Today, curry is one of the most popular dishes in this country and the most famous, chicken tikka masala, is actually a British dish. This shows how common curry has become in Britain, but also how places like London are a melting pot of flavours, spices, and cultures.

Why is curry so popular in the UK? Find out yourself by enjoying the flavours of your local Indian restaurants or by trying to make your own delicious chicken tikka masala recipe at home.

Vocabulary Activity

Match the bold words in the article to the definitions below.

  1. (adj.) having no flavour or spices; boring
  2. (ph. v.) remove something; stop it; end it
  3. (adj.) made or done in a traditional way; genuine and real
  4. (n.) the state of being extremely poor
  5. (adj.) originating in a distant foreign country
  6. (ph.) on the whole; considering all parts
  1. bland
  2. do away with
  3. authentic
  4. poverty
  5. exotic
  6. all in all

This is Ingla School of English‘s weekly blog, intended as reading practise for our students in Turnpike Lane, in London, and around the globe. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and take a look at the rest of our writing, much of which has activities for teachers to use in the classroom.