What is curry?

Did you know that Curry is a plant, grown in tropical climates? It’s actually a shrub or a small tree and grows no more than 20 feet. Fresh curry is a bit of a challenge to find in North America. Fortunately, I live in a city where there are ethnic neighborhoods which offer the aromatic spices and herbs readily found in Asia.

Does it taste like curry?

Oddly enough, the curry plant does not taste at all like the curry spice blend that we tend to associate with curries. The leaves of the curry plant, to me, have the aroma of sesame seeds and the texture of fresh bay leaves. Fresh curry leaves are often called for in south Asian recipes and the leaves do impart a different, subtle and aromatic flavor in whatever recipe you use it in.

Where to Use Fresh Curry…

Long story short, this search for the curry plant was prompted by a recipe that I have had for months and did not cook because I could not find fresh curry leaves.  And since fresh curry leaves were essential to the dish, the email with the recipe got archived, until recently.

We were chatting over dinner with family one evening and I mentioned that I was looking for fresh curry. It was my sister-in-law who gave me the name of the store where I could buy it and I went out the next day to buy the fresh curry leaves.

So, finally, I had all the components and decided to try the recipe for Aloo Subzi from my email archives.  It comes from my husband’s niece, currently living in India. Actually it comes from her boyfriend, who is a native Indian and loves to cook.

What’s it taste like?

I was pleasantly surprised at the very mild and subtle flavors in this dish. I had a vague anticipation that the curry leaves would have a curry flavor, but no, I would say that the flavor was more reminiscent of citrus, rather than a curry spice blend that we all know.

Aloo Subzi is meant to be a vegetarian main course, but I prepared it thinking that it would make a wonderful side dish to grilled lamb. It’s fast and delicious, but, be forewarned, you need fresh curry leaves. These are available at various places I am sure, but I found it at Ambal Trading, (you can find them on Facebook by that name). A little shop on Parliament in Toronto and a find that was given to me by my sister-in-law.

So, because I finally prepared this new curry dish, Aloo Subzi, I thought I would include a couple more curry dishes including Aloo Broccoli Sabzi and Sri Lankan Tamarind Chicken Curry. All of these recipes can be very mild, or hot, depending on your taste. At least two of them have fresh curry leaves in their recipes, but honestly, I think you could include curry leaves in all of them.

It’s interesting, the more you cook and the more you try different cuisines, the more you find similarities. Each region, culture has base of spice ingredients, but at the end of the day, there are only so many main ingredients and cooking methods, so the unfamiliar becomes familiar and the pleasure comes with the flavors and aromas of the spice and herbs.


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