“It hits the spot, good and proper,” says Meera Sodha, author of Made in India: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen and a student of the curry game.

You can find curries all over the world, from Trinidad to Japan. Recognize them as Indian in origin, and you’ll start to see world history on your plate. First, different regions in India developed their own spins on curries, from Kerala’s fish curries, to the north’s chicken butter masala. As Indians traveled around the world as laborers and traders, starting at the end of the 18th century, they brought their culinary traditions with them. Curries, made with regional ingredients, integrated themselves into local cooking almost everywhere Indians went.

The colonizing Brits adopted many of the culinary traditions of India, and it’s from them that we get the word curry and its broad, delicious definition: “a spiced Indian dish which has a sauce,” according to Sodha.

There may not be hard and fast rules for what defines a curry, but there are some sturdy guidelines for making a tasty one at home. That’s why we asked Sodha to lead us through her methods for creating signature “layers of lovely big, bold flavors” and beloved, “generous warmth.” (As a good place to start when mastering these basics, try her delicious "Mum's Chicken Curry.")