Curry leaves are unrelated to what most of us know as curry; they are the leaves of a tree native to South Asia. They are used in many Indian preparations, and in particular are "one of the most common and important ingredients" in South Indian cuisines, according to sushigirlie. They are used fresh, rather than dried, and freeze well (they are also sold frozen in Indian markets). "Be prepared for your house to smell like a real Indian kitchen/restaurant when you use them for the first time!" says gordeaux.
Many recipes begin with sautéing curry leaves with spices and aromatics. buttertart uses curry leaves this way in lemon rice, basmati rice cooked pilaf-style with black mustard seeds, cumin, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns, curry leaves, turmeric, and chicken broth, with the juice of a lemon stirred in before serving.
"My favourite way to add curry leaves to dishes is at the end, and with mustard seed," says sixelagogo. She heats a small amount of oil, adds a teaspoon of black mustard seeds, and covers until the mustard seeds pop, then adds a handful of curry leaves and cooks until they're crisp, a few seconds. "You can then add this flavored oil to anything as a finisher ... it's a very nutty, herbaceous way to add umami to a veg. dish," she says.
This mulligatawny soup "is the recipe that introduced me to curry leaves—I absolutely love this soup," says mcaren. Brunhilde makes Parsi potatoes with egg, in which a soufflélike layer of eggs is baked atop a spiced potato mixture. vevete recommends both roasted chicken with curry leaves and spices and sitr-fried shrimp with curry leaves as excellent and easy recipes.
Discuss: what to do with fresh curry leaves?