Researchers have found evidence of the oldest known preparation of curry outside India in Vietnam.
The findings: The scientists made the discovery at the Óc Eo archeological complex in southern Vietnam. Through starch grain analysis of 40 grinding and pounding tools, they found eight unique spices that were likely used for making curry: cinnamon, clove, fingerroot, galangal, ginger, nutmeg, sand singer and turmeric.
To determine how old the tools were, the researchers obtained 29 separate dates from charcoal and wood samples. Results showed that the complex was occupied between 1 and 8 CE, or about 2,000 years ago.
What they are saying: The scientists said they were originally trying to understand the function of a set of stone grinding tools called “pesani,” which was likely used to powder spices in the ancient kingdom of Funan. Instead, what they discovered was the first tangible confirmation that curry spices had been valuable global trading commodities for millennia.
They knew that the trade was global because not all the spices were naturally available in Óc Eo, which once served as a major port of the Funan kingdom. So far, archeological evidence has pointed to curry originating in India some 4,000 years ago.
“Someone at some point would have transported them there via the Indian or Pacific Ocean,” the researchers wrote in a release. “This proves curry has a fascinating history beyond India, and that curry spices were coveted far and wide.”