A crucial component of dal and many other dishes, curry leaves are a fresh herb picked from curry trees. They’re entirely different from curry powder, which is a ground blend of herbs and spices that varies by region. Both items can be used to make a curry, which is a blanket term for any number of spicy, saucy dishes in Southeast Asian cuisine.
While curry powder is used to flavor a whole dish, curry leaves are more of a background note. Their herbal, citrusy flavor becomes slightly nutty after cooking.
There’s not much that can’t be improved with a few curry leaves. Try them in tadka, a mix of herbs and spices that’s tempered in oil and used as a finishing touch on top of various Indian dishes. Stir curry leaves into homemade pickles, rice, or — of course — curries. Or sprinkle crushed, dried leaves over roasted vegetables or grain bowls.
Curry leaves, like so many of the other herbs and spices described here, are rich in antioxidants. A 2020 study looking at pharmaceutical qualities of curry-leaf extracts suggests they may have anticancer properties, among other benefits.
This was excerpted from “8 Herbs and Spices to Cook With More” which was published in the November 2022 issue of Experience Life.