The UK has a lot of 'Indian' restaurants, which tend to be staffed by people from Bangladesh.

The menu will often have 100+ dishes available, which they need to cook using as few staff as possible, so it is my understanding that these will be made from a sauce (which seems to contain lots of onions, then garlic, ginger and spices) usually referred to as a 'base gravy', which the relevant meat and vegetables for the dish ordered will be added to.

Obviously this is an essential process in a restaurant, but there is a large community on social media of British people not of South Asian extraction who want to replicate their favourite restaurant food, and overwhelmingly this involves making a 'base gravy' first.

I live in Indonesia and know how curry is made here, and often the best places to eat might specialise in ONE dish, which is cooked from scratch ahead of time, and indeed any place that's preparing a curry from scratch after you order will tend to have bad flavour.

I'm slightly confused by this 'BIR' system, because most of the gurus (of people who want to make 'Indian restaurant' curry at home) seem not to be of South Asian origin, and nor are the people cooking it. So I'm slightly doubtful about the whole process. I'm assuming that South Asian families would tend to cook curry from scratch in much the same we do in Indonesia.

I can see that it could be advantageous if you want to eat a different curry every day for a week, or if you want to create four different curries and plate (ahem) them into aluminium foil trays to eat at the same time, as if you had just ordered an Indian takeaway. And generally, I suppose, if you create say 20 portions of 'base gravy' and then make 'curry for one', with the other 19 portions in the freezer then it could be useful. But that I think is not specific to curry, it's just meal planning, like people making 20 portions of tomato sauce or whatever else.

So the question is is there really an advantage to this as opposed to simply making a curry from scratch, or is this more a case of slavish mimickry? I presume that this cooking technique is not particularly common among British Bangladeshi people at home, for example.

  • 1
    Pat Chapman was the first to try categorise this maybe 35 years ago with a series of Curry Club books, concentrating on how BIR is actually made, rather than traditional recipes.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 20, 2020 at 13:04
  • Not enough rep to answer, but British Indian Restaurant style cooking attempts this, there are many websites for it (two I find work well for taste and texture are greatcurryrecipes.net and thecurrykid.co.uk). The principle is you have 1) Base Sauce, 2) Pre Cooked Meat, 3) sometimes Pre-prepared Mixed Spice powder (House powder blend in a restaurant), 4) given all these pre-prepared (in large batches, takes time) the recipe on the day is quick and easy. The restaurant or you combines these common ingredients and step 4) makes the final unique dish Mar 6, 2022 at 17:27
  • Would this sauce usually be called ‘gravy’ in the UK? (That usage doesn't quite sound right to me — my impression is that ‘gravy’ has a narrower meaning here than it seems to elsewhere.)
    – gidds
    Sep 26, 2022 at 15:34
  • @gidds it is always called 'base gravy', mostly I think because it is a term originated by non-native English speakers, so they use a term based on what they see of the English language. Sometimes translations into English of foreign concepts do sound odd in English. As a native speaker, I would call it a 'base sauce', but the fact is it is referred to by those who make it as 'base gravy'.
    – thelawnet
    Sep 27, 2022 at 16:31

1 Answer 1


As far as I understand, the base gravy is just something that is used to cook curries of all sorts quickly in a restaurant context, especially in BIR, British Indian Restaurant (I've not looked at other south asian curries)

The gravy is "curry" agnostic, it can be used in many different dishes.

When cooking a curry at home, you can normally take your time and create a curry dish from scratch, bypassing the base gravy.

On the other hand, making a large batch of base gravy and freeze individual portions for when you want to make a mid-week curry is something that should and could be easy to do (I think I'll try making a batch over the holidays)

  • Add to this that the proteins are often pre-cooked in a base liquid too, then drained & cooled. That makes service as simple as dropping one of each in a frying pan, drop the "essential differences" (spices, veg etc) that make up that dish, & serve. 3 mins, not 4 hours.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 20, 2020 at 13:00

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