Curry leaves (called kadi patta in Hindi) are small herb leaves with a slightly sweet flavour. They are used as an aromatic and flavouring in many Indian curries and soups. I love to add it in almost all of my Indian recipes. I temper my dals with curry leaves, I use them for upmas, for khichdi, for curries and when I want more of it, I make a chutney with them!
The flavour of curry leaf is released when it is fried in oil. Therefore, in recipes calling for curry leaves, they are usually added in the first step along with cumin seeds in the oil or ghee. If you rub a fresh curry leaf with your fingers, you can smell its fragrance on your fingers. The curry leaf plant (called meetha neem or sweet neem) is very common in most homes across India.
While curry leaves are very common in Indian cuisine, I haven’t seen them being used in any other cuisine which is also why I haven’t been able to find the plant in all the countries we have lived in. In US where there is a lot of Indian population, I have seen fresh curry leaves in Indian store. But in Angola and Romania and even in Scotland, I only had my mom and her ingenious way of preserving kadi patta to thank for that quintessential tempering in my recipes. Every time I go home, I bring back a jar of freshly dried curry leaves.
If you stay in a place where you don’t find curry leaves often, use this method of preserving and storing fresh curry leaves for that delicious flavour and aroma in your Indian curries and lentils.
How to dry and preserve Indian curry leaves
Ingredients (1cup = 240ml; 1tbsp = 15ml; 1tsp = 5ml)
- 2 cups fresh curry leaves
- Remove the leaves from the stalk and wash them thoroughly in a colander.
- Place the wet leaves on a kitchen towel and gently pat them with the towel to remove excess water.
- Place the leaves on a large tray or thali and spread them in a single layer. Place the tray in a cool shade inside your home and leave them to dry. Cover with a thin cloth if there is dust.
- Depending on the weather, the leaves will dry in 2-3 days. It is important to dry them in shade to retain as much flavour. Sun drying is faster but will result in loosing most of the flavour and aroma.
- Once dried, store the dry and crisp curry leaves in an air-tight container and use it whenever needed just like fresh curry leaves. You can also pack them and send them as gifts to your family and friends who live outside India!
- Dried curry leaves will crumble very easily, so store them in a big container.
- Few things to take care when drying to ensure maximum flavour in the dried leaves:
- Start with the freshest curry leaves. It would be ideal if you can pluck them right off a tree. If you are buying from a vendor, buy the freshest curry leaves he has, no more than a day old.
- wash properly
- dry in shade
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If you love cooking Indian food and are often on a lookout for curry leaves, this is a great recipe to preserve some, whenever you find fresh curry leaves. Do you use any other method for preserving fresh herbs?
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