Spice up your curries with curry leaves

by Sanjeev Kapoor

I simply love South Indian food and can enjoy it anytime! Do you want to know what is so special about South Indian curries? Apart from the exciting varieties, aromatic spices, it is the distinct flavour of kadhi patta or curry leaves that add that extra zing to their dishes be it sambhar, rasam or aviyal.

No wonder that in most South Indian homes you will find a curry leaf plant finding a place of prominence be it in a corner of their balconies or in their gardens. Just break off a sprig of the plant and add it to the curry bubbling on the stove – and the result is absolute bliss. Their flavour is best when they are freshly plucked. When dried they lose most of their flavour.

What’s so special about curry leaves

Actually curry leaves are used elsewhere in India too. They are quite unknown to the Western world. I am told that growing curry leaves at home has more advantages than just providing fresh leaves to flavour your curries. They make the air around cleaner, lesser insects and spreading a fragrance that is so very appealing. What’s more they do not need much looking after - just water them daily and they will give you fresh curry leaves anytime you need them.

They add a wonderful freshness

It was Amma, the grand old lady from Andhra, who became a part of our family over the many years she served us. We would always look forward to her idli-sambhar, bisi bele huliyana, tamarind rice, lemon rice, chicken curry or fish curry...the list is endless. A wonderful cook, she would always insist on using only fresh and tender kadhi patta to temper the delicacies she cooked for us. No stale leaves would do for her nor did she like to use the ones bought from the market. So she planted a curry leaf plant in a big pot and though she has now retired and returned to Andhra, we still enjoy the flavourful curry leaves almost daily.

Don’t discard the leaves

Though it is used to flavour many curries, most of us tend to remove and throw away the leaves from our plates. Actually we shouldn’t be throwing them away because they have many medicinal properties.

They stimulate digestive enzymes and help to break down food easily. A glass of buttermilk flavoured with asafoetida with few curry leaves taken after a heavy meal help in digesting the food easily. Juice of curry leaves mixed with a little lemon juice and a pinch of sugar can make wonders when you are hit with a sudden attack of nausea or indigestion.

Good news for people who want to lose weight, just chew a few leaves and see its wonders on you. They also improve eyesight, and are known to help prevent cataract. Curry leaves are also good for hair growth and to prevent premature greying of hair.

Culinary uses

Besides being used to temper dals and various curries, kadhi pattas are used to make delicious chutneys. When I had gone to Bangalore I had tasted this absolutely delicious chutney made of roasted chana dal, roasted dried coconut and roasted kadhi patta ground with roasted dried red chillies and generous pinch of asafoetida. They serve it with dosa, idli or even sprinkle over bread slices.

Curry leaves make Lemon Rice, Tamarind Rice, Fish Moilee, some other fish curries, mutton and chicken curries extra flavourful. And I make it a point to chew them and don’t ever discard them. Just try it once and you will know what I mean.

Recommended recipes-

Air-fried Paneer with Curry Leaves,  Kadipatta Chutney,  Curry Patte Ki Sukhi Chutney,  Prawns with Onion, Curry Leaves and Chillies

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.