Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Curry Leaf Crush

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I know, it’s nothing more than fried curry leaf, but considering that I’ve never seen a recipe for curry leaf raita with it, I think it’s worth putting up in the blog.

It was a serendipitous discovery for me. Cashew lover that I am, when the flesh is willing and the spirit is weak, deep-fried cashew nuts often find a place in my pantry. Of late, a store near my place has started frying them with a spicy, salty mix of curry leaves, so much so that they come coated green! And the considerable amount of curry leaf dust rendered oh so crisp and spicy by all the seasoning that’s gone into the snack makes it an awesome accompaniment to plain curds/yoghurt.

In India, nowadays some vegetable shops hand over curry leaves by the bushel – you are not charged for it and the grocers stuff your shopping bags with so much you have to tell them you just want a sprig or two.

I, for one, haven’t discovered how to store an excess of curry leaf effectively in the refrigerator (mine still wilts and darkens) but just last week I read somewhere that frying and putting them in will help. Somewhere else, on the Net, I think, a Web site said freezing them on the stem was a better option.

Here's some information from Buzzle.com: The curry leaf plant (or tree if you wish), is a native of Tropical Asia, southern India and Sri Lanka. Belonging to the Rutaceae family, the Murraya Koenigi plant grows to a height between two and five meters, depending on various factors.

The plant is found almost across the length and breadth of the India and Sri Lanka.
Curry leaves are best used fresh. While some people may add it to their curry powder, it is largely a seasoning leaf, to be used only in specific curries to provide specific tanginess.

Apart from cooking, the curry leaf has a number of medicinal uses. It is an essential ingredient of almost all traditional medicine systems of peninsular India. Unani, Ayurveda and other systems use it to cure ailments such as piles, to allay heat of the body and to treat leucoderma and blood disorders. In India, the curry leaf is used to prevent conditions such as nausea and stomach upsets. It is also used in treating skin irritations and poisonous bites. Its oils are invaluable as repellants and to cure skin disorders common to the tropics.

A friend boils it in coconut oil and uses it on her hair to keep it black.
Read more about it here

Most South Indians swear by it but in the finished product, like chillies, it ends up being pushed to a side of the plate as it’s deemed a bothersome presence, probably because the flavour it lends is more delicate than the actual taste. In fact, long ago I read a story titled ‘Karivepaku’, the Telugu name for curry leaf, where it becomes a metaphor for wives and mothers who slave over their families but get very little appreciation!

A few months ago, vexed by the large amount of curry leaf that the vegetable shop dumped on me, I threw a handful into a chicken curry and discovered the secret to the chicken curry I’ve tasted in the many no-frills, non-vegetarian, ‘military’ hotels that are popular in South India. (Find that recipe here.)

This curry leaf crush is a good thing to have handy not just for yoghurt and for the usual seasoning/tempering that your food needs, but can also be an instant mix for rice. Mix it with hot, soft rice, adjust the seasoning, enjoy! It will also come in handy to sprinkle on snacks and mixture (a typically Indian snack which’s a medley of daal, nuts and other fried savouries).

There isn’t much technique involved – all you need is some salt, chilli powder, about two cups of washed and dried, loosely packed curry leaves, 3-4 tbsp of oil. Heat the oil, put in the curry leaves and keep sautéing till they turn dark and papery – it takes a few minutes. Season with salt and chilli powder, let cool. Once it cools, crush it with your fingers, store in an airtight container.

For the raita, mix a spoonful or two of it into a cup of yoghurt and enjoy!
When I mentioned this to my friend, she said a healthier, oil-less version would be to heat the curry leaves till they shrivel and dry - take your pick!

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This is my entry for Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by Ulrike of Kuchenlatein.



  1. Thank you for participating. I've never found curry leaves in my area, last year I bought a Curry Plant. Unfortunately I can't see any pictures, although they must be there.

  2. You get a bushel for free!!I have to drive 25miles atleast to get few sprigs of curry leaves for $2!!and I eat all the curry leaves in the Sambhar and specially love to eat'em if they fried!!:D
    Looks great and I thought os buying a plant but they deftly on me for sure,so dropped the idea.
    Great tips and write up sra!:))

  3. Trying to leave a comment since morning, blogger is in a bad mood
    Is that your curry plant ?
    My curry leaves wilt too and they do not come free here :(
    Thanks for the idea, can I use that for upma etc. too ?

  4. Ulrike, it took me an hour and more to repair the situation, but as you can see, it's ok now.
    Asha, thanks. At one time you couldn't get them at all in the US, people would dry them, pack them carefully and take it there always worried if it was going to be confiscated at Customs
    Sandeepa, I got stunned into switching over to the new Blogger, I've been having many small irritants myself! No, that's not my curry plant, that's part othe bushel I got for free. Yes, you can use it in upma if you want a stronger flavour but I think fresh is better.

  5. Hi SRA:
    Curry leaves are a luxury for me, I usually stock up on them every time I visit Toronto. I freeze them..but not on the stem though(they still turn dark)...your idea is a good one, I'll try that!


  6. That's a neat idea for raita.On my last trip to india, i brought some dried curryleaves.Getting it for free..:((.I have a small plant,will be able to use it's leaves...may be after year or so..:))

  7. Trupti, lovely profile picture you have there! Let's try freezing them on the stem and exchange notes later :)
    Maheswari, best of luck with your plant!

  8. Sra, Curry leaves are something I would never compromise,if the recipe calls for it in whatever form (be it fresh or dried).your curry leaves picture looks pretty good .

  9. Thats a brilliant idea!!!!! Half of my store bought (not free!!!!) curry leaves go down the chute after they become black and plead till I finally let them go!!!!
    I am gonna try this for sure!!!!! Lovely tip Sra :)

  10. Lera, I frequently forget to use curry and coriander leaves :(
    Coffee, thanks. Let me know how you liked it.

  11. Very interesting. I've never seen a plant like this where I live, although there's an herb sold here called "Curry plant" which is not the same. I would love to taste this. I'll have to ask at my favorite Indian store if they have a source to get it.

  12. Hi Sher, thanks for stopping by. Glad you found it interesting. A curry plant is different from a curry leaf plant - I don't know much else about it.
    Kalyn, hope you find it soon!

  13. Where I live (Bay Area, CA), curry leaves are very expensive. They cost about USD14.99 per pound!
    Chinese have a dish called "cereal prawns" whereby curry leaves are used. When I master the art of cooking that, I'll post that in WHB!

  14. I'm really shocked, Sim! That much for curry leaf! That's Rs 750 here! I'll look out for your cereal prawns, thanks for stopping by!

  15. Love the smell and flavor of curry leaves...Nice write-up!

  16. Yes, aren't curry leaves lovely? Thanks for visiting.

  17. a curry leaf raita.. curry leaves are the most expensive item in my pantry ($1 for 5 sprigs)and the abandon with which u cook with it makes me sure u are in india.

  18. Hello, sra, I came over here when Sandeepa pointed to me that your dish looks similar to what I just posted! Your concept is neat - I love the scrunch of toasted curry leaves! Have to try it out when I get the next fresh batch from the desi store!

  19. Hi @, thanks. Thanks for stopping by

  20. I love fried curry leaves...but seeing the die-hard fan for the first time!!!

    I have never tasted this way, though it sounds delicious...I enjoy fried curry leaves with sugar!! Let's try this one too...

  21. Anisha, that's an unusual combination!!!


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