SE Asia’s oldest traces of curry spices found in southern Vietnam

Groundbreaking Discovery: 2,000-Year-Old Evidence of Curry in Southeast Asia Uncovered in Vietnam


In a remarkable archaeological finding, researchers have uncovered evidence suggesting that curry was being consumed in Southeast Asia as early as 2,000 years ago. The discovery, made at the Oc Eo archaeological site in Vietnam’s An Giang Province, sheds new light on the ancient culinary and trade connections between South and Southeast Asia.

Curry Spices.

Traces of Spices Found on Ancient Grinding Tools

The key evidence comes from a sandstone slab and other stone implements excavated from the Oc Eo site, which was buried some 2 meters underground. Analysis of plant remains found on these grinding and pounding tools revealed the presence of a diverse array of spices, including:

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Fingerroot
  • Galangal
  • Clove
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon

Asian Curry Powder 

Grid Stone

Significance of the Spice Blend

The spice blend discovered at the Oc Eo site is significant for a few reasons:

  1. Similarities to Indian Curry: Several of the spices, such as turmeric, are commonly used in Indian curry dishes, suggesting potential culinary connections.
  2. Distinctly Southeast Asian Ingredients: Other components like galangal are more distinctive to the Southeast Asian culinary tradition, hinting at local adaptations of the curry concept.
  3. Earliest Known Evidence of Curry in Southeast Asia: This finding represents the earliest known evidence of curry preparation in the Southeast Asian region, predating previous estimates by centuries.

Potential Origins and Implications

The researchers are uncertain whether the curry was made by migrants from India, where the dish is believed to have originated over 4,000 years ago, or by local inhabitants influenced by South Asian culture. However, the site’s history as a major port city in the ancient Funan kingdom lends credence to the idea of early trade and cultural exchanges.

Dr. Hsiao-chun Hung of the Australian National University, who led the excavation and research, emphasized the significance of the discovery:

“This research is the first to confirm that these spices were indeed traded commodities that existed within the global maritime trading networks nearly 2,000 years ago.”

Indian Curry Spices

Remarkably Preserved Spices

One of the most surprising aspects of the discovery was the excellent preservation of the excavated spices, particularly the nutmeg seeds, which still retained their aromatic properties after 2,000 years.

Some of the most famous Spices


This groundbreaking archaeological finding at the Oc Eo site in Vietnam provides the earliest known evidence of curry preparation in Southeast Asia, illuminating the region’s ancient culinary and trade connections with South Asia. The discovery of a diverse spice blend, including both Indian and local Southeast Asian ingredients, suggests a vibrant exchange of ideas and ingredients centuries ago. As research continues, this finding promises to reshape our understanding of the rich culinary history of the region.