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Curry Leaf

Curry Leaf

(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 unmistakable.

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 koenigii.

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.

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