The History of Korma

By Foodism Team


qorma? What is qorma? One might ask. 

Even though, now we can’t imagine our lives without Mughlai food. Whether it is the boomer generation, Millennials or ‘Hip’ genZ, the spell that is cast by the mughlai cuisine affects us all the same. Therefore, we need to know about its true roots & journey to pay the due reverence and carry forward the authenticity of this lavish cuisine. 

Returning to the question at hand- What is qorma?

Well this is a complex question. Are we talking about ‘Korma’ or ‘Qorma’?- that was born in the Indian subcontinent. Are we talking about the ‘Qavirma’ or ‘Qavurma’? The older Turkish brother that inspired the present day- Korma?

When it comes to tracing the lineage of a dish, one can never be 100% right. Even written records or scrolls can falter. We can only share the knowledge that we have gathered and let others add to it. Here is what we have to say about our beloved Korma.

The king of Indian curries is believed to have origins in Turkey, Azerbaijan & Persia. The name Qorma has been derived from the Turkish word- Qavirma which has roots in Arabic and Urdu.

Qavirma hints at a cooking method that involves frying. Let’s circle back to the Turkish dish- Qavurma. The recipe hints towards a mix of Turkish & Parsi recipe, in which the meat is fried, braised & cooked with herbs, vegetables or sometimes even apricots or pomegranate. Qovurma on the other hand is an Azerbaijani delicacy where the meat stew is prepared with dry fruits and sour grape juice/ Verjuice and vegetables.

The first mention of korma is found in the scrolls of Dastarkhwan- the royal table of the Mughal emperor of Bahadur Shah Zafar. It is safe to say that by then the Mughlai fusion between the Persian Khormeh, Azebaijani Quovurma & Turkish Qovurma had been born. While there were other versions that were formed such as Awadhi Korma or the variants formed solely on the basis of availability of ingredients. Mughlai korma has dominated Indian curries by large & far. So even so, that it even travelled with the land’s colonisers. 

The korma we cherish in present day India includes marinated meat/poultry braised with spices, roasted in ghee and khada garam masala. The gravy is formed by cooking browned onions with the meat and adding yogurt or cream to increase its richness. The glaze is formed from the ghee and the fat of the meat. 

Needless to Say, Korma is at the heart of North India!