Jamaican Curry Powder: The Taste Of The British Empire

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It is often reported that the concept of curry powder arrived in Jamaica via Indian indentured workers who emigrated to Jamaica and other parts of the West Indies in the 19th and early 20th century. While there is probably some truth to this (they may have brought the ingredients for curry powder with them) it is more likely that they simply adopted British curry powder once in Jamaica. At that time, Jamaica was a colony of the British Empire and its cuisine was influenced by the British. Separated from the land of their birth and the food culture there, they latched onto the closest thing they could find—the British version of Indian flavors.

It is worth noting that Indian food culture did not remain entirely separate from other food cultures on the island. Much like Creole and Cajun seasoning, Jamaican curry powder would become representative of multiple disparate immigrant and indigenous communities. Jamaican curry powder typically includes allspice, thyme, and other ingredients not included in most classic British curry powder blends and is often used to flavor some very non-British foods.

Jamaican curry powder flavor profile

The flavor of Jamaican curry powder is similar to that of other curry powder blends. The differences include the addition of allspice, which 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.

Health benefits of Jamaican curry powder

Like other styles of curry powder, Jamaican curry powder contains multiple spices that are good sources of important nutrients. Those nutrients include:

  • Vitamins: Allspice 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: Allspice 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 fiber: Each of the spices used in Jamaican curry powder contains moderate amounts of dietary fiber, which means that the spice blend should add some fiber to your diet.

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 is 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. Allspice and cumin are also known to be beneficial for good digestion.

Common uses of Jamaican curry powder

It’s commonly used to season goat meat for goat curry, or curried goat as it is called on the island. Allspice and other strong spices can tame the gaminess of goat. Other common uses include as a seasoning for chicken. Less often, it will be used to make vegetarian curries, such as an ackee curry. Ackee is a West African fruit heavily consumed in Jamaica. Jamaican curry powder is also occasionally used with beef and pork.