The Spice Route: Veena Prasad on Curry Leaves

I’m very excited to introduce Veena Prasad, Founder of Veena’s Market on this segment of the Spice Route, not only because I love the concept behind her store of Indian spice kits and reading her recipe blog, but also because she wanted to cover one of my favorite ingredients, curry leaves.  I know curry leaves are not technically a spice, but they play a huge roll in flavoring dishes from South India, where Veena grew up.  In teaching cooking classes, I find that many people automatically think “curry” comes from curry leaves so I was happy to have Veena write about them and dispel this myth!  She has also shared a beautiful recipe using curry leaves below that I can’t wait to try out.

Name: Veena Prasad

Where do you live? Seattle, WA

What do you love to do? Anything to do with food – creating new recipes, photographing food, cooking, eating, and definitely sharing. I love taking classic Indian recipes and reinventing and adapting them to local and seasonal produce. One of my biggest joys with what I do on and through cooking lessons is when people realize that they too can cook Indian food. Often, they go on to trying new recipes on their own!

What’s your spice? Curry leaves

What do you know about it? Its name has caused some confusion to many a novice to the Indian cuisine! Curry powder is *not* made from curry leaves though curry leaves could be one of the many ingredients in some spice blends in South India. And curries, even those that include curry leaves as ingredients get their flavor from many spices and herbs.

Curry leaves exude a heavenly aroma, reminiscent of fresh herbs and citrus when fried in oil. You will typically only find this herb in Indian or Asian grocery stores. If you live in a warm area or have a long enough summer and have a backyard, you can plant a curry leaf tree. There are many online sources in the US for seedlings.

Fresh curry leaves are the best obviously but they only last up to a week in the fridge. I always buy extra packets of curry leaves since the Indian grocery store is far away. Once I rinse them, I lay them out to air dry on paper towels. After 2-3 days, I store them in airtight containers. When I need to use curry leaves, I take a few and crush them slightly in the palm of my hand before adding to the oil.

What’s your favorite vegetarian recipe using it? Curry leaves and other spices with coconut milk makes for an aromatic, flavorful and easy curry base for many different vegetables and proteins! The recipe below is inspired by Sri Lankan and South Indian cuisines and uses cauliflower. I would recommend including tofu or paneer as well. You can really use many different vegetables or proteins or mix and match. I use chicken or fish as my protein in this curry since I’m allergic to both dairy and soy.

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  • Nick

    This looks amazing. Where in the Seattle area can you buy curry leaves?