- O​n second thoughts, I'll have a curry.

C​hip-shop curry sauce. WTF is it, actually?

L​ife is full of mysteries, and this is one of them

1y ago

W​e've been saying it for decades. 'And a pot of curry sauce, please.' But have you ever paused, forked chip en route to that miniature bucket of apparent baby poo (see pic, above), and asked yourself what it is, exactly?

C​hip shop curry sauce has been around for a very long time indeed. When I was a boy, it's meaning and origin were already lost to history. Everybody knows what curry sauce is, and yet nobody knows. If asked to describe the flavour, as a food critic might, what would you say? What does it actually taste of?

I​t doesn't really taste of curry; not even 1970s home-made British leftovers curry. It doesn't have any sultanas in it, for one thing. It isn't exactly sweet, but it isn't especially savoury, either. It's not really spicy. Is it fruity? It is everything, and yet nothing.

I​t tastes of chip-shop curry sauce. It is an absolute, and there are taste receptors on your tongue there to recognise curry sauce but completely dormant the rest of the time. It is elemental, and has a place on the periodic table of flavours, along with the likes of apple, or cinnamon, or burnt toast. But it is a confection of some sort, not a natural occurrence. What stuff 'tis made of, and whereof 'tis born, we are to learn.

T​here are a few clues. Chip-shop curry sauce is only available in chip shops, and it always tastes exactly the same, everywhere in the country. It's also exactly the same colour. The only variation in curry sauce is the consistency, which suggests to me that it's made with a powder or concentrate of some sort.

B​ut since it is otherwise universal, I'm guessing there is one centralised supply. If we could find the source of the sauce, we could eliminate it, like a deadly virus that survives in a lab. We all order curry sauce, especially after an evening on the sauce, but we always regret it, because the tiniest of portions can generate revolutionary volumes of flatulence.

H​unt it down, corner it, kill it off. Bury it in concrete.

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Comments (44)

  • What’s your opinion of ‘Chinese Takeaway Curry’ ? It’s equally unlike any real curry but a post pub staple food (must include peas - discuss).

      1 year ago
  • I learn something new all the time. Chips with vinegar is called "slap chips" was good in its day when I was a youngster.

      1 year ago
  • Chip shop curry - love it!

      1 year ago
  • We have a similarly weird green sauce in the west of the US. When you order taquitos, (rolled corn tortillas with a strip of mystery meat) a deep fried delight to kids in Los Angeles. They pour this thin green sauce and call it guacamole sauce.. it’s light green, bland, and watery. It has a weird taste, like watered down

    Tomatillos boiled beyond any flavor. The only thing remotely guacamole ish is that it’s a pale version of the inside of my favorite fruit.

    I guess you can pass off anything to a hungry kid

      1 year ago
    • You get that same mystery green sauce in some Mexican restaurants here in Texas. They give you a dish of it alongside the salsa with your tortilla chips. Sometimes you get lucky and they put a little bit of spice in it.

        1 year ago
    • The doner kebab is our equivalent.

        1 year ago
  • The only chip shop I've ever been to had only one sauce; malt vinegar. But I recall a green chutney on an autumn night, delivered by a nice door dasher named Tina. We used it hesitantly over our chicken tikka masala and spare naan, and found it somehow soothing, reminiscent of a cool sliced cucumber over a burn of August sun; yet granular and bitter, demeaning one to the sediment of one's being.

      1 year ago