Kari (Curry) versus Kari-Kari (Curry-like)

Kariyan (Carijan) by Jose Honrato Lozano (1847)

KARI (curry) vs. KARI-KARI (curry-like). I still remember a time when my aunts in Magálang called our meat dish with a thick creamy sauce made of ground toasted peanuts, grated turmeric, saffron, pepper, garlic and thickened with toasted rice powder, KARI (curry), while they called the ones cooked by Filipinos as KARI-KARI (curry-like) because she said “é ré túran” (they can’t get it right).

Folklore has it that KARI was once the Kapampángan people’s signature dish. Kapampángan were said to establish the first KARIYAN (carijan) ‘places that cook/serve KARI’ in Manila during the Spanish era to cater to the homesick Kapampángan colonial bureaucrats, soldiers, sailors and students who were working and studying in Intramuros. The KARIYAN, written in the Spanish orthography as “carijan”, later became the ‘carinderias’ we know today. The root of the word “carinderia” is KARI, written as CARI in the Spanish orthography. When Filipinos started putting up their own Carijan, Kapampángans arrogantly called their dish KARI-KARI (curry-like), a poor copy of the Kapampángan KARI.

It was said that when the Port of Yokohama was opened to the world on June 2, 1859, Kapampángan sailors who worked on French and Spanish ships opened up their own KARIYAN for their fellow Kapampángan sailors who regularly made their way to Japan. KARIYAN was written in Kanji as 咖喱飯 (KA-RI-HAN), where 咖喱 (kari) meant “curry” and 飯 (han) meant “rice”. (Now wondering if our KARI was not the ancestor of the popular Japanese dish カレーライス “curry rice” and not something introduced by the British as the official history tells it.)

When Filipino (Tagalog) became the dominant language, many Kapampángan “carinderia” began renaming their dish in Tagalog. They started calling our KALÁME as “kakanin”, our PINDANG as “tocino”, our TIDTAD as “dinuguan”, our TIBUKTÍBUK as “maja blanca” and our KARI as “kare-kare”. Many young Kapampángans are growing up not knowing the original name of their mother’s dish.

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