Curry leaves are small in size and long, slender, and oval in shape narrowing to a point, averaging 2-4 centimeters in length and 1-2 centimeters in width. The shiny, dark green leaves grow pinnately along a stem, and each branch can hold up to twenty, tightly clustered leaves. Curry leaves are extremely aromatic and have a strong flavor that has been compared to citrus, asafoetida, anise, and lemongrass. When cooked, Curry leaves have a mild and slightly pungent bite with a nutty aroma.
Curry leaves are best suited for cooked applications such as boiling, steaming. They are commonly incorporated in southern and western Indian cooking and are used similar to bay leaves, although the leaves are edible after they are cooked and do not need to be removed before eating. Curry leaves add a bright flavor to stews, curries, soups, rice dishes, and dals. The leaves are usually stripped from the stem, fried in hot oil with other spices, and either used as a base for making a dish or poured over an already-made dish for flavor. Curry leaves pair well with lentils, yogurt, coconut milk, aromatics such as onions, garlic, and ginger, mustard seeds, chile peppers, oyster sauce, pea shoots, eggplant, and fish.
They will keep up to two weeks when stored fresh in a sealed container in the refrigerator and up to six weeks in the freezer.
Yellow Lemon Rice with Curry Leaves
3 cups basmati rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil (or coconut oil)
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. mustard seeds
5 red chiles (dried, chopped into thirds, more or less as desired)
15 curry leaves (plus a few extra for topping)
2 Tbsp. black lentils (small, rinsed and then soaked in water for 2-3 hours, then drained)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 pinch fenugreek
1 1/2 lemons
sea salt (to taste)
1/4 cup cilantro (chopped)
cashews (toasted chopped, for garnish, optional)