(Murraya koenigii) Curry leaves are
as important to Asian food as bay leaves are to European food, but never
try to substitute one for the other. Curry leaves, either fresh or
dried, are usually the first ingredient added to the small amount of oil
in which a dish is to be cooked, and the fragrance and flavor are
A number of small, shiny, pointed leaflets
grow closely along a central stem, and it is customary to toss the whole
stem in. A word of warning. When added to hot oil, fresh curry leaves
cause much hissing and spattering, so stand back. Dried curry leaves are
more sedate, not causing the oil to erupt, but be ready with the next
addition to the pan, as they burn easily. While the flavor of dried
leaves is not as strong, they still make a contribution and are probably
easier to find in Western countries.
Mostly used in South India, Sri Lanka,
Malaysia and Fiji, where Indian migrants have taken the plant. The tree
is native to the sub-tropical forests of Asian, but you would
successfully grow your own supply of curry leaves in a temperate zone
garden. Look for young plants in pots in some Asian stores, especially
those which specialize in Indian ingredients. If you attempt to buy a
curry plant in a Western plant nursery, you will probably end up with
the herb which goes by the name of 'curry plant' (Helichrysum
italicum) but which does not taste even remotely like Murraya
If fresh curry leaves are pulverized in a
blender, they make an outstanding contribution to a coconut chatni.
Chopped tender leaves are delicious in an omelet or scrambled eggs.
Purchasing and Storing : Fresh curry
leaves are usually found in Indian shops, in plastic bags in the
refrigerator. They keep very well, but if not using the whole amount
within a couple of weeks, dry them gently in a very low oven or in a
dehydrator. Dried curry leaves keep indefinitely in an airtight
container, but the fresher they are, the better the flavor will be.
Dried curry leaves are pulverized and added to certain spice mixtures.