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Garlic and ginger are a staple in South Asian meat (chicken, beef, goat, lamb, duck, etc.) curries.

I am just wondering, why.

What attributes of garlic and ginger made them essential ingredients for meat curry?

What do they actually improve in meat? Do they remove meaty smell?

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    Can you give some indication of why you are expecting a reason beyond "because they taste good"?
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 22:28
  • Possibly related: cooking.stackexchange.com/q/14249/67
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 22:45
  • I'm afraid you're asking an opinion-based question, then. Good questions for SA need to be ones where a verifiable answer can be given. "Why does cuisine X use ingredient Y" is not determinative.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 23:56
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    @FuzzyChef “Because of the taste” would make a fine, non-opinion-based answer. If the question had been “why do we put baking powder in biscuits” would you have called that opinion-based? And how is the OP supposed to know the difference before they have their answer?
    – Sneftel
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 8:01
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    @Sneftel in cooking, 99% of ingredients and pretty much all combinations are used because of taste (baking is somewhat more complicated). I don't see much value for the site in having this kind of question repeated for different ingredient pairings. My preference would be for people who ask such a question to have done some minimal research to indicate that there might be something more to the pairing than the default. I won't mod-hammer this after the community reopened it, but I will add a post notice, hopefully it will help hold back the opinion-based answers.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 13:28

1 Answer 1

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Ginger can potentially tenderize meat. But the ginger in curries is generally cooked before even adding the meat, which would destroy the enzymes responsible for doing anything like that.

It's commonly held that that ginger (and, less commonly, garlic) mask the smell of raw meat. It would be difficult to draw a principled distinction between "A masks the aroma of B" and "A and B taste good together": As far as I know, ginger and garlic do not chemically react with the undesirable flavor compounds in meat. And in something like a curry, you'd expect the other flavorings (particularly turmeric and cumin, common in curries) to suffice for that even if the ginger and garlic weren't there.*

Finally, the ginger/garlic combination is found in many Asian cuisines: South Indian, North Indian, Thai, Cantonese, Korean, etc., often in meat-free dishes. So whatever other reasons one might have for using these ingredients, clearly they're widely considered to simply taste good together, including in meat curry.

* I'd note that one published paper takes an evolutionary perspective and argues that covering up the aroma of foul-smelling meat would not be a reason that people use strong-smelling flavorings, simply because eating foul-smelling meat is a bad idea even if you cover up the smell. I'm not particularly convinced by their reasoning, though: it seems rather hastily teleological.

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    There was a flag noting that the comment section became quite off-topic. I deleted the comments; whatever the truth, it won't be likely found in this comment line. Maybe History Stackexchange or Politics Stackexchange will take a related question, if it contains some research effort.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 8:52

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