Curry leaf - food

Curry leaves are extensively used in South India and Sri Lanka. They are particularly used in South India cooking to provide a flavouring for curries, vegetable, fish and meat dishes, soups (rasams), pickles, butter milk preparations, chutneys, scrambled eggs and curry powder blends.


Dried curry leaf from Kew's Economic Botany Collection.
Image: Curry leaves are used extensively as a flavouring but aren't easy to find in British shops.

They are mainly used fresh, but are also used dried or powdered. For some recipes, the leaves are oven-dried or toasted immediately before use. Another common technique is short frying in butter or oil. Since South Indian cuisine is dominantly vegetarian, curry leaves seldom appear in non-vegetarian food; the main applications are thin lentil or vegetable curries and stuffings for samosas. Because of their soft texture, they are not always removed before serving.

In India the leaves are sold in markets still attached to the stem. In Europe they are generally sold as dried leaves but some are imported fresh.

British curry powders

Curry powders sold commercially is an attempt by British to provide in ready-made form a spice mixture corresponding to those in South India. The British manufactured ones rarely contain curry leaves. It can include roasted cumin, coriander, black pepper, chillies, roasted fenugreek, dried ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and turmeric.