Potatoes with Crispy Curry Leaves – Recipe

Potatoes with Curry Leaves
Potatoes with Crispy Curry Leaves

How is this for confusing? Curry powder is not made from curry leaves. Good Indian cooks tend to mix spices for individual dishes, although there are some mixtures that are fairly standardized, like garam masala. In the west, some truly awful, unbalanced spice mixtures go by the name of curry powder and should be roundly avoided. To make matters worse, curry leaves themselves can be ground into a powder called karuvepilai podi, although you probably won’t run into that so often.

But back to curry leaves. You’ll have to find an Indian grocery, or a very well stocked pan-Asian grocery to get them. They do freeze rather well though, so it is ok to buy more than you will use immediately. Curry leaves are just incredibly aromatic, in a way that smells something like sesame and nuts. Don’t believe anyone that tells you to use bay leaves as a substitute; they aren’t even vaguely similar. Plus, curry leaves are edible when crisped up, while bay leaves will choke you.

Here’s an easy way to use them, sautéed with potatoes. I kept the other flavors muted so you can really enjoy the curry leaves themselves. I used little, waxy, dark purple potatoes because I figured the visual contrast would be beautiful, but any small potato will do just fine.

By the way, when you boil potatoes, you should always start them in cold water, as this will give the inside a chance to come up to temperature before the outside overcooks and falls apart.

Potatoes with Crispy Curry Leaves
Serves 4 as part of a larger Indian meal
Vegetarian and gluten-free

  • 1 1/2 pounds small, waxy potatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter or ghee
  • About 30 fresh or frozen curry leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Flaky sea salt (Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt)!)
  1. Put potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold, salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until completely tender when pierced with a knife, but not falling apart. Drain and reserve.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the curry leaves, and stir-fry until they begin to crisp up, about 3 minutes. (Pull one out and let it cool for a few seconds to see if it is crispy.)
  3. Add the potatoes, cumin, a few grinds of black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt (less if not Diamond Crystal), and toss well.
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning, then finish with a few flakes of sea salt.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 in Gluten-Free or modifiable, Recipes, Side Dishes.

17 Responses to “Potatoes with Crispy Curry Leaves – Recipe”

  1. October 17, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    I love using curry leaves in Indian recipes!! You are right that they are incredibly aromatic – I especially like them in lentil stews or “dal” – they add a wonderful depth of flavor to the dish. I love the simplicity of this recipe – will definitely be trying it soon!

  2. October 17, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    What a delightful recipe for curry leaves! I must try this for my son who loves to put curry in a lot of dishes he cooks. Thanks for sharing this helpful info and great recipe idea, Michael!

  3. October 17, 2012 at 7:59 am #

    Michael, that is the most fantastic meals ever: I love simplicity in the food, and especially I love purple potatoes… I have to admit though: I’ve never tried curry leaves… Will look for it in the stores… Where is the best place to look for it?

    • October 17, 2012 at 8:11 am #

      In Seattle, I see them at Asian and Indian groceries, like Uwajimaya, HT at Oaktree Plaza, or Apna Bazaar in Bellevue. I assume the same would be true in other cities. It may be worth calling around first, as it could be hit and miss – ask if they have *fresh* curry leaves. And don’t forget you can freeze them, so once you find a pack they can last awhile.

      • October 17, 2012 at 8:45 am #

        Thanks Michael! Well, Uwajimaya would be the perfect place to start as we are moving back to Seattle and probably will rent something in Crossroads area for the time being. I am driving and taking with me my kaffir lime tree… :)

        • October 17, 2012 at 8:50 am #

          Oh good, well I look forward to meeting you when you get back and settled into Seattle!

  4. Laura
    October 17, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    I can’t wait to try this. Also inspires me to try to locate a curry plant. I used to ride the bus to work and the bus driver who was an Indian from Singapore taught me about curry leaves. He told me about a plant that was growing wild in a vacant lot…no idea how it got there. Now torn down so I am on the hunt to buy my own. Kudos to the lady moving and taking here Kaffir lime tree with her. Mine sits on my front porch where it is protected from strong winds and the gardener and mail man who seemed to have a go-round with it last year. This year I have fruit too!

  5. Charu
    October 24, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    Michael, so delighted to see you using the staple of many Tamil dishes. Love ‘karuvepilai’, cannot cook most dishes without it. It is so heartening to see South Indian dishes and spices getting their due recognition ;-)

    • October 25, 2012 at 6:27 am #

      Hey Charu – Absolutely! I love South Indian cuisine and am always sorry it isn’t better known in the US.

  6. Bryan R. Clarey
    October 29, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    Hi – I used Helichrysum angustifolia `Tall Curry` and although it was delicious the curry leaves “clumped” together” in several little clumps. Is that normal or would a different kind of fresh curry work better next time?

    Thank you!

    Bryan

    • October 30, 2012 at 6:12 am #

      Hmm, I haven’t had that problem. Oh, I just googled the plant you are talking about – never heard of it before but it looks completely different. Sounds interesting, but very different. The curry leaf we are looking for looks like this: link to ninecooks.typepad.com

  7. Bryan R. Clarey
    October 29, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    It is a perfect combination of flavors BTW….

  8. October 30, 2012 at 3:08 am #

    This recipe looks great and I’m definitely going to try it. 

  9. Teju
    December 20, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    Hi,
    A less confusing way to spell the name of these leaves would be : kadhi leaves.
    Curry in India more or less just means “sauce” and it has nothing to do with the word “kadhi” (no r, but a deep d). Kadhi leaves are ubiquitous in the cuisine of the state of Maharashtra and in southern India.
    They are two completely different words- hence, no confusion!!
    Btw, I just discovered your site and am loving it. Thanks for the great vegetarian recipes from around the world.

    • December 20, 2012 at 9:04 am #

      Hey Teju – totally true, but if you go to look for these leaves in a grocery store in the US, they are always labeled “curry leaves”. One of the hazards of cross-cultural translation. Glad to have you aboard!

  10. chandra
    May 7, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

    fabulous and simple recipe. In north India they are called “meetha neem” leaves. They are also called curry patta (patta means leaves). All Indian grocery stores in US will carry them.Thanks Michael, being a vegetarian, I have found your recipes to be amazing.

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