Monday, October 03, 2011

VeganMoFo 3: There's a Curry Leaf in my Sambar!

Today's Mofo Spice is Dried Curry Leaves

On my most recent trip to India, I really fell in love with fresh curry leaves. I mentioned a couple of days ago that I brought home loads of various spices and such... and one my most valued items was a large metal tin stuffed full with dried curry leaves. I keep them in my freezer to maintain maximum potency. Sometimes I open the bag and smell them, just for fun.

What are curry leaves, anyway?
Probably you've heard of "curry powder," but that is not actually related to curry leaves from what I can tell. There is a plant called a curry plant - the leaves are smallish, dark green, smooth and pointy. You can buy little bunches of the branches at the market in India - sort of like how we might buy bunches of sage. Curry leaves are absolutely glorious - a flavor and smell all their own. Sometimes you can find frozen curry leaves at the Indian market, and if you have never tried them, I really, really recommend it. Do yourself a favor! They will blow your mind!

I know that this soup isn't much to look at, but MAN! was it good.

As far as I'm concerned, the number one thing to make with curry leaves is Sambar. It's a thin, brothy soup with veggies and the tang of tamarind, along with some richness from coconut and dal. Sambar is a big staple of South Indian food. I found this recipe online, and chose it because it called for lots of curry leaves (which is just the way I like it) and because the reviews were great. We both absolutely loved it! I've been looking for a good sambar recipe for a while, and I need look no further. I couldn't believe I made something this delicious.

I also found a recipe for "Carrot Kari" in the latest issue of Saveur Magazine, which called for a handful of curry leaves. I really love carrots, and the ingredients made this seem like it would be a great dish. Somehow though, this recipe just managed to cook all the flavor out of my carrots and didn't have much to offer. I finished my plate, but Mr. Vegan Eats and Treats turned his focus back to the sambar. Can't say I blame him!


  1. I love curry leaves! And if I remember correctly, my love affair goes back to you giving me some out of your freezer once.

    Sambar is so good. Sorry to hear about your flavorless carrots though!

  2. Okay. You 've me sold me on curry leaves. I love your "31 spices" artwork. Very clever :)

  3. Your spice collection looks so good. I love sambhar with curry leaves. I've greatly enjoyed your posts about Indian food and your food photos from India - especially the snacks.

    One trick I've been using recently is to snip the curry leaves into small pieces using a pair of kitchen scissors. Back home when folks used to add curry leaves to dishes, they'd add the leaves whole. And I'd turn up my noise at eating the entire leaf and wasting all the great nutrition. Not anymore!

  4. Anonymous10:00 AM

    Wow, I didn't even know that there was an actual curry plant, much less that it's not ordinarily found in curry. I make Indian food a lot, though I haven't tried sambar before. I love that you smell them just for fun...that makes me want to go see if I can find some. Thanks for introducing me to this whole new piece of botanical intrigue!

  5. I love fresh curry leaves so much that I asked my friend to bring me some curry plant saplings that popped up under her tree in FL. Unfortunately, they didn't take, but I'm not giving up!

    How do dried compare to fresh? I've always stayed away from dried because I just LOVE fresh curry leaves so much and figured they wouldn't compare. Maybe I've had the wrong idea all this time!

  6. Amey! I totally giggled at the thought of you smelling spices for fun. I've done the same thing. I can't remember what it was, but my mom used to have this spice mix that was just heavenly.

    I really need to get me some curry leaves.

  7. Oh, I've used these leaves and they are incredible! I found a plant at our nursery and rubbed the leaves between my fingers and just couldn't believe how it smelled exactly like curry.

    Will try to recipe!

  8. you should totally check out "Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts" by Ammini Ramachandran if you haven't already. Lots of recipes use curry leaves. I'm partial to fresh - are they just not easily available where you are? Let me know - I can always ship you some in a pinch! :)


  9. I'm with you, curry leaves are one of my most favorite spices. I really having them in the garden, I wonder if your weather is warm enough in CA? Maybe you could overwinter them inside, mine never got too big.

    I love them in uppuma, too.

  10. I really need to expand my spice knowledge, and probably my culinary repertoire. I'm completely intrigued by curry leaves and all the other spices you've posted about so far.

    Thanks for sending me the picture of us from veg fest!

  11. I just love your theme, Amey! It's like having one of my favorite books (all about spices!) brought to life! Huzzah for your spice collection and for MoFo! <3

  12. I have a jar of curry leaves but I have never used them! I'll need to try sambar.

  13. Anonymous11:11 PM

    I saw curry leaves at an Indian market in San Jose and I didn't know what do with them. I'm definitely going to get them next time!

  14. I love sambar! Making a pot with a big pile of curry leaves sounds great. I smell spices too sometimes, especially ground coriander and cardamom.

  15. Oh how I love sambar. It is one of the first Indian dishes I really dedicated myself to learning how to make (aloo gobi being the first).
    Diwali is coming... maybe I'll have to make a big pot.

    My take on it:


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