Saturday, May 31, 2008

CSA - Two Malaysian recipes using curry leaves

Note: I've made a bunch more using curry leaves; some Malaysian, some Indian, one Mauritian; since I made this post. Click here to see the lot.

The CSA's first summer a la carte week was today and amongst other things I picked up some fresh curry leaves. Curry leaves are common in Indian cooking and in cuisines it's affected such as Malaysian. I haven't invested in a full Indian pantry, but the other seasonings in Malay cooking come from Chinese and Thai (and some Arab) which I do have so I was able to find some interesting recipes that highlighted the curry leaves, but otherwise used ingredients I already had in the house.

I made Fried Chicken with Curry Leaves and Stir Fry Shrimp with Curry Leaves both of which I found on

I didn't mess with the fried chicken recipe much, but to save you a clickthrough, here it is:

Fried Chicken with Curry Leaves

oil for deep frying
3 chicken thighs, cut into 2" pieces (whenever you're using bite-sized pieces of chicken, thighs are a better choice than breasts or whatever "chicken tenders" actually are. Dark meat both has more flavor and stays moist better)
2 Tablespoons curry leaves, about 2 stems' worth
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon corn starch
1/2 Tablespoon oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
100 ml chicken stock (that's about halfway between 1/3 and 1/2 cup), low sodium preferably

1. Combine chicken with marinade and marinate for 1 hour.
2. Deep fry in oil until golden brown and crispy and drain on paper towels (the recipe author, ponikuta, suggests 5 minutes, but I found mine done in half that time.)
3. Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in wok on high heat, add curry leaves and sauté until fragrant
4. Add chicken and glaze and stir fry until dry
5. Serve immediately with rice

The author suggests adding a dash or two of rice wine to mellow the flavors. Definitely a good idea to cut the saltiness of the concentrated soy and oyster sauces.

The shrimp recipe you'll have notice if you've looked is rather vague. It doesn't mention the size of shrimp to use, the amounts of most of the ingredients and, I think, leaves out an important step with the tamarind. Here's what I did:

Stir Fry Shrimp with Curry Leaves

12 extra large shell-on shrimp
curry leaves stripped from 3 stems
2 teaspoons tamarind paste dissolved in 3 Tablespoons water
2 teaspoons turmeric
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, halved and thickly sliced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar

1. toss shrimp with turmeric.
2. Heat 3 Tablespoons oil in wok on high heat. Add garlic, onions and curry leaves. Stir fry until onions are soft and everything is aromatic, 1 - 2 minutes
3. Add shrimp. Stir fry 1 minute
4. Add tamarind liquid (straining out solid bits), salt and sugar. Stir fry 1 minute
5. Add 1-2 Tablespoons water, turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 2 minutes
6. Serve immediately with rice

Both dishes came out very nicely. The intense oyster/soy glaze on the chicken does over power the curry leaf most of the time, but if you have a piece with a couple of the fried leaves they add an herbal note that rides on top of the sweet and saltiness adding a balancing accent. The shrimp, I think, is the better dish. The tamarind/curry leaf combination is beautifully light and aromatic and a fine compliment for the shrimp. And both dishes were really easy so, if you've got some curry leaves, you could do a lot worse.

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