What's the Difference Between Indian Curry and Thai Curry?

Curious about curry? Just the thought of it conjures up images of flavorful, vibrant dinners. But it’s much, much more interesting than you might think.

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Exploring the Origins of Curry

The word “curry” refers to a variety of different cuisines from South Asian countries. It’s a broad blanket term that describes a zesty dish made up of vegetables, different types of meats, like chicken, beef or lamb, and rice or noodles.

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The word “curry” as we know it today is actually derived from Western vocabulary. The name takes root from the Tamil word “kari,” which when translated means, “sauce or relish for rice.”

Today, when talking about Curry, we can be referring to a dish, a spice, a plant, or a professional American basketball player — but in our case, it's mostly dishes and spices. But we hope you liked our joke.

As a spice, curry has a vibrant golden color. It’s made up of an eclectic mixture of Eastern and Asian spices, like cumin, turmeric, ginger, and cloves. Because of the complexities of the curry mixture, it’s been used as a health aide in treating ailments like inflammation.

As a meal, curry is a staple dish all over the world, especially in India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and England.

(Source: The Spruce)

One thing about curry always remains true — every curry dish is a little bit unique.

Indian Curry

When referring to curry in Indian cuisine, it typically means the dish, or kari, and not so much what we Westerners know as curry powder.

In fact, if you’re in India, you’ll probably have trouble finding curry powder.

In the mid-17th century, the British East India Trading Company traded kari with Indian merchants. When they returned to England, the mix they sold became called “curry powder.” (Source: Flavor 574).

And the name stuck. 

Curry dishes in India are credited as the “longest continuously prepared dish in the history of ever,” (Source: Napoleon Grills).

Tracked back to 4000 years ago in the Indus Valley of India, people were eating rice, ginger, and turmeric meals—some of the core ingredients of curry.

Indian curry dishes are thickened with dal or lentils. Popular Indian curries include Korma, Madras, and Pasanda.

  Creamy Chicken Korma —  Order Now

Creamy Chicken Korma — Order Now

Korma has a yellowish hue, is mild in flavor, and typically has coconut or almond flavor notes.

Madras is a popular curry with a hot flavor and a bit of a sour zing.

Pasanda is found mostly in the UK. It’s made with cream and coconut milk and it’s mild in flavor.

Thai Curry

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Thai curry meals differ from Indian curry meals because it is made with curry paste.

Curry paste isn’t very derivative—it’s all pretty much made from the same ingredients: hot chilies, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, shallot, shrimp paste and dry herbs like cumin and coriander seeds, and turmeric. (Source: Napoleon Grills).

But if you do want a derivative type of curry, then you can experiment with the different portions of seasons.

  Curried Coconut Chicken —  Order Now

Curried Coconut Chicken — Order Now

Putting chilies in curry dishes is popular in Thai cuisine, but it became popular due to the British East India Trading Co. While they were visiting South American countries and trading over there, they took chili to India, and people almost immediately took to putting chili in their curry meals. This trend spread throughout Asia.

  Shrimp Red Curry Soup —  Order Now

Shrimp Red Curry Soup — Order Now

Red Thai Curry is considered the spiciest type of curry, probably because it gets its color from the large amount of red chilli used to make it. It’s also made with coconut milk, and it comes from Central Thailand.

  Chicken Yellow Curry —  Order Now

Chicken Yellow Curry — Order Now

Yellow Thai Curry contains coconut cream, which is thicker than coconut milk, thereby making this curry very rich. If you’re in the mood for a spicier variation of this type of curry, ask for Golden Curry or Elephant Curry.

And if you want to completely forgo the coconut cream, order an Orange Curry, which has no coconut milk, but a sour zing flavor.

All yellow curries are made with a ton of turmeric, which is a natural remedy for inflammation.

Green Thai Curry earns its color by the addition of cilantro, basil, and lime leaf. If you’re not fond of spicy flavors then you might prefer Green Curry, because it’s considered a little milder than the yellow version, and much milder than the red.

Panang Thai Curry is derived from their neighboring country Laos. It’s a more mild version of curry and it’s made with blue ginger. Panang Curry is also known to contain peanuts, so look out for that special crunch.

Crushing on curry? Take a look at our curry inspired meal kits!

Hurry, Hurry, I Want Curry!

What’s your favorite variation of curry: Indian or Thai? Korma or Pasanda? Yellow curry or red curry? Do you prefer to have your dinner zesty and spicy, or do you like mild flavors instead? When you think of curry, what country do you think of first? Share your thoughts with us. Let’s start the conversation. Do you have any more curry questions? We’re happy to answer them!