Last Updated on May 20, 2015 by Chef Mireille
The curry leaf is a unique ingredient, used in Indian cuisine, spicifically in South Indian cuisine. It is not to be confused with curry powder. In fact, curry leaves are not usually included in curry powder’s, either from India and Southeast Asia or the Caribbean.
It is a unique herb found in the gardens of most South Indian homes. Visit anyone in Kerala and I can almost guarantee they will have a kari plant in their garden. It is a primary ingredients used in the sambhar, chutney, dahl and curries of South India. It has such a unique taste, that it is difficult to describe. It has kind of an anise, licorice like taste, similar to Thai Basil, but more potent. Only a few leaves are added at the end of cooking an entire pot of curry. It is left for a few minutes to flavor the curry and then it is unlike any other curry you have ever had. The flavor is indescribable unless you have experienced it yourself.
As with much of the ingredients used in Indian cooking, the curry leaf also has medicinal uses. The Ayurvedic tradition uses kari patta. On their own, they are an excellent digestive and improve stomach functions. Mixed with other ingredients, they serve a variety of uses. One common Ayurvedic cure for diarrhea is mixing these leaves wiht mint and coriander and mixing it with fresh juice. It also has been used in helping to control and sometimes eliminate non insulin dependent diabetes. Results have been proven after drinking kari patta tea for a period of 3 months.
In addition to turmeric, this is another wonderful Indian herb that provides great taste and great health benefits. I have used this in two of the new products available at Global Tastes & Travels. The South Indian Paradise tea includes these wonderful curry leaves, in addition to other typical South Indian ingredients like coconut and lemongrass. Curry leaves are also one of the primary ingredients in the Indian spice blend, in addition to coriander, ginger, mustard, aamchur (dried mango) powder and a myriad of other spices that characterizes the Indian diaspora.
If you want to purchase the fresh leaves in New York, you can find them at Kalustyan’s on Lexington between 28th and 29th and they are also available in Queen’s at Patel Brothers on 74th Street in Jackson Heights, between 37th Avenue and 37th Road. They can be found in the fresh produce section and costs about $1 for a 1 ounce bag.
Try some curry leaves and add it to your stews and soups also for a distinctive flavor.!!