Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Spice Files: Focus on CURRY LEAVES

Curry leaves (kadipatta in Hindi and Marathi) are one of my favorite spices. For the sake of fresh curry leaves, I frequently trek to Queens to the Indian store rather than do without them. Curry leaves should not be mistaken for bay leaves, these two are worlds apart. Curry leaves add a fresh citrusy fragrance to food that is simply unmistakeable.

I generally buy fresh leaves, pat them dry and store them in the refrigerator for a few weeks. They keep quite well and hold flavor much better than when they are frozen or dried. A friend mentioned that curry leaves can be grown by sticking the stalks into a pot of soil. Really? Well, I potted my curry-stalks today and shall keep you updated about whether they take root and grow :)

The recipe I have chosen to showcase curry leaves is a very simple cabbage subzi. Subzi is the general name for dry vegetable stir-fries. These can be eaten with roti/bread or with rice and lentils. To increase the protein content of my vegetarian diet, I often make subzis with added lentils or peanuts as shown in this recipe.

Cabbage Subzi
1 small head cabbage, washed and shredded (about 6-8 cups)
1 onion, diced
1/4 cup hulled chana dal, soaked for 30 minutes (optional)
10-12 curry leaves
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Handful of minced cilantro
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. oil
salt to taste

  1. Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard and cumin seeds, let them splutter and then add onion and curry leaves. 
  2. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes on medium heat till onions have softened. 
  3. Add turmeric, red pepper flakes, salt to taste and stir for a few seconds. 
  4. Add the cabbage and chana dal and stir around to coat them with spices. 
  5. Add 1/4 cup of water and let the cabbage simmer for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. The subzi is done when the cabbage and chana dal is tender and the preparation is almost dry. Garnish with cilantro and dress with lemon juice just before serving.


  1. This is just the way we make in Tamil Nadu minus the onion though. My mom adds grated coconut towards the end of cooking.

  2. Hi Nupur - this sounds wonderful! I've yet to prepare any Indian food myself, but this sounds like a good place to start! I've never been sure - do you eat the curry leaves or remove them like bay leaves?

  3. Hi Mika,
    Yes, I often add shredded coconut as a garnish too but was too lazy that day :)
    Hi Cathy,
    I forgot to mention it so thanks for reminding me, yes, you do remove the curry leaves before eating...though they are not as tough as bay leaves and can be eaten anyway.

  4. That cabbage looks delicious! I haven't looked for curry leaves before, but this recipe may just put me over the edge :-)

  5. I love your blog and am a recent visitor. Thanks for all your recipes..

    Just wanted to share with all that the curry leaves/kadipatta is has a nutritive quality(My grandma said it was iron but the scientific facts are that it is rich in antioxidants and carotene) so eat the greens :)
    (only the fresh ones can be eaten easily-not the dried ones)

  6. I know that curry leaves can be eaten, but can bay leaves? I've seen them used but mainly for flavour then removed later.


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