I’m really excited to be starting a new series on the blog called “Indian Cooking 101.”
These blog posts will be like going to a super fun virtual college class taught by me: Professor Ashley SINGH Thomas (um, just to clarify – I’m not really a professor). Also, I feel like I have to include my maiden name, Singh, to prove that I’m Indian… Believe it or not, I’ve been accused of cultural appropriation for writing a healthy Indian food eBook.
If you have any questions/suggestions on topics related to Indian Cooking, leave me a comment and hopefully I’ll get a chance to address it in the series!
Here are the questions I’m going to answer for you today:
- Are curry leaves the same as curry powder? (NOT AT ALL).
- What are curry leaves and where can I find them?
- What’s curry powder?
Are curry leaves and curry powder the same?
No. There is absolutely no substitute for curry leaves – they are unique and cannot be replaced in a recipe with curry powder.
What are curry leaves & where can I find them?
Curry leaves come from the curry tree and are used as a seasoning in South Asian cooking. They have a distinct smoky, citrus-like flavor and aroma. If you search the internet, I’m sure there are people who will compare the aroma and flavor of curry leaves to some herb or another but I’ve honestly never smelled anything that resembles a curry leaf other than a curry leaf itself.
You can find curry leaves at almost any local Indian grocery store – they’re very cheap, usually no more than a dollar per pack. If you don’t live near an Indian store, then you can order them on Amazon.
I do not recommend buying dried curry leaves – they don’t taste anywhere as good as the fresh stuff. Also, curry leaves don’t last very long in the fridge, so if you buy in bulk then I suggest putting them in a ziplock bag and storing them in your freezer (I do this all the time).
What is curry powder?
Funny story, several years ago I went home to visit my parents. I was helping my mom cook in her kitchen and I asked her where she kept the curry powder. She looked at me like I was crazy. My mom, who grew up in India, had no idea what “curry powder” was…
That’s because curry powder is a British invention.
Yep. Curry powder isn’t even Indian… it’s just a pre-made spice mix that includes “Indian” spices like coriander, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, etc. Curry powder does not contain curry leaves.
When it comes to authentic Indian recipes, you won’t find “curry powder” in a list of ingredients – and if you do, look for another recipe. For example, authentic Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken), Navratan Korma, Goat Curry, will NOT have curry powder listed as an ingredient.
That said, I’m not a curry powder hater. I actually love the stuff when it comes to making quick meals or sides. It’s a great spice mix for creating Indian-fusion or Indian-inspired recipes. You can add it to eggs (deviled eggs!), veggies, fish, chicken salad and get a nicely spiced dish in a short amount of time.
The two are very different and while they each have their pros (no cons…) – I tend to prefer recipes that call for curry leaves – probably because those recipes are more authentic. Give curry leaves a try! If you’re a fan of Indian food or Indian cooking then you will absolutely love the flavor of curry leaves. Once you try cooking with them, you won’t stop.