I Cooked with Curry Leaves for the First Time, and Here’s What I Made

published Aug 11, 2015
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(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

I’ve been trying to expand my cooking repertoire lately since I feel like we eat the same thing over and over again at home. Part of this involves forcing myself to grab something new at the grocery store and cook with it, and last week fresh curry leaves caught my eye!

What Are Fresh Curry Leaves?

Native to southern Asia, curry leaf is an herb that comes from a tree — it’s used in a lot of East Indian food.

Fresh curry leaves look like small, shiny lemon leaves, and smell pungently of curry. You can keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze them. While dried curry leaves are also available, they have less aroma and flavor.

Are Curry Leaves Related to Curry Powder?

While curry leaves do have a flavor reminiscent of curry powder, they have nothing to do with curry powder. Curry powder is a blend of other dried, ground spices, herbs, and seeds.

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Cooking with Curry Leaves

Curry leaves, which soften when cooked, are used to flavor rice, chutneys, soups, stews, and even dals. To bring out their flavors, it’s recommended that curry leaves be cooked in oil first. The sautéed leaves can then be added back in while the other ingredients are cooking. Sometimes curry leaves, sautéed in hot oil and other spices, are used to drizzle onto finished dishes.

I didn’t have much of an agenda when I picked up curry leaves at the store, except for the fact that I also wanted to eat eggplant. I bought some Chinese eggplant, then scrounged in my fridge for other ingredients, coming up with a handful of pea shoots and a tiny boneless pork chop. Time for a stir-fry!

I sautéed a small bunch of curry leaves in oil first, then fished them out. After searing the eggplant and the pork, the curry leaves went back in the pan with the pea shoots, some garlic, and a little cornstarch-fish sauce-oyster sauce slurry to make a saucy coating for everything.

It was the perfect lunch; the curry leaves were tender, but definitely had a mild, pungent bite, and they flavored all the other ingredients. I was one happy camper and so glad I picked up fresh curry leaves.

Have you ever cooked with curry leaves? What have you made?