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Curry leaf

Other Names: Bursunga, kari patta, katneem, or meetha neem (Hindi); karapincha (Sinhalese); pindosin (Burmese); sweet neem leaves.

General Description: The curry tree (Murraya koenigii), in the Rutaceae (citrus) family, has small, oval leaves with a pleasing aroma that hints of tangerine and anise. On this tropical tree native to India, the leaflets, which are dark green on top and pale below, run in pairs up the smaller branches. The leaves give off a strong, warm, savory aroma when bruised or rubbed. They are essential to the vegetarian cuisine of southern India and Sri Lanka and are also used in northern India. Curry powder is a British invention meant to imitate the flavor of Indian cooking and may have once contained curry leaves. The leaves, which lose much of their fragrance within days, are eaten fresh (or frozen), though they may be briefly oven-dried, toasted, or quickly fried in ghee (clarified butter). In southern India, curry leaves are mainly combined with vegetables and legumes and used to flavor fillings for savory pastries like samosas. In Sri Lanka, coconut-based chicken and beef curries are flavored with curry leaves.

Purchase and Avoid: Look for fresh or frozen curry leaves in Indian groceries. Choose fresh shiny leaves that show no signs of yellowing or wilting. Dried curry leaves are also available but have a much diminished flavor.

Storage: Curry leaves shouldn’t be removed from the branches until needed. They can be stored refrigerated, wrapped first in paper towels and then a plastic bag, up to 2 weeks, or they may be frozen.

Serving Suggestions: Mix chopped curry leaf with potatoes for a samosa filling. Add to vegetable curry dishes at the last minute. Mix with lentils for sambar or dal.

Food Affinities: Cauliflower, chutney, coconut milk, cumin, fenugreek, green beans, lentils, potato, samosas, turmeric.

from Quirk Books: