On a recent visit to France, to visit my mum and dad with Oscar, I had planned on cooking all sorts of French classics. But once I was there, I was most inspired by an old family favourite: my mum’s Malaysian chicken curry (not very French I know!). However, in the depths of a cold French winter, it seemed like a fantastic dinner option and it evoked all kinds of fond memories from growing up in Borneo.
The recipe calls for curry leaves (brought in my suitcase for my mother, without fail every trip!), and on this occasion, I was particularly struck by how amazing it is, that a leaf should smell so much like a curry! And that’s when the question surfaced: did curry or the curry leaf come first?
Reading the Curry Leaves
We all eat Indian, Thai and Sri Lankan curries, however, it’s not very often that we come across simple, everyday recipes for Malaysian food. And I’m more than likely biased, but I have to say that Malaysians have some of the greatest tasting food in the world! So you can imagine how excited I was to see Ping Coombes, of Pings Pantry and Masterchef champion, release one of the most authentic Malaysian cookbooks of all time – simply called Malaysia: recipes from a family kitchen....
I still remember the smoky smell of satay stands outside the local supermarket and being amazed at how easy my mum found it to recreate local dishes – her curry was a regular at our family dinner table; the vivid yellow of turmeric and the heady smell of the combined spices is not something you forget, and I shall ensure that this recipe is passed down to Oscar and his children (and of course, ensuring that they too serve it with a side of steamed white rice, crisp popadums and a good dollop of mango chutney!). But above all else, my mum was (and still is) adamant that this curry is not a curry without the addition of the curry leaves :)
Curry leaves should be thrown into any curry, whether they are Indian, Thai, Sri Lankan or Malaysian; fry them up in a hot pan until crisp and used as a delicious garnish for your curry or rice. Curry leaves are cheap and versatile and can be found in bags in the veg section of most supermarkets plus they can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. And if you should be lucky enough to find a curry plant in Dubai, grab it - they grow easily in our warm climate.
But please, I’m begging you home cook to home cook, not to use dried curry leaves; they are seriously lacking in any flavor and are an insult to the humble curry :)
So no matter whose side you are on whether curry or the curry leaf came first, you definitely deserve a taste of Malaysia, cooked by your very own fair hands. Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter where you will receive secret recipes and useful kitchen hacks straight to your inbox!