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Curry Leaf in the Philippines

image c/o wikimedia: If you have this tree in your garden and don't know what it is, that's a curry tree! Start cooking Indian now!

The other week, I was ecstatic (not to mention surprised) to find curry tree plants in H’s garden in Makati. I was out looking for a route by which to climb up the roof because I wanted to get some mangoes, when I spied a growth which looked very much like the curry tree which I planted some months back, which I thought the gardener pulled out. The weird thing was that it wasn’t where I had originally planted it, but about a meter from there.

I stood there with my forhead creased, hands on my hips wondering about the mystery. Then I noticed a fully grown shrub with similar leaves hiding behind the decorative plants. I went around the star apple tree to further investigate and there were two more plants! Along the side of the fence, there were eight more saplings that were struggling to grow in the undernourished soil. Before I got carried away (which really, I already was at that point), I pulled out a couple of leaves to crush and smell. It does smell exactly like curry leaves.

I went back inside the house, past H who was busy playing playstation and announced my find before wiki-ing curry tree. It is related to the neem tree (which I thought I must be mistaking it for), but the difference in their leaf shape is very distinct. I thought there was only one way to prove for once and for all if it was indeed curry leaf: cook with it. I plopped down on the sofa and announed to H’s back “I think I might be ready for Indian food.”

I had a bit of sabbatical from Indian food since coming back from India last summer, simply because I had consumed enough Indian food to last me a year. There was just no escaping it in Tamil Nadu. But I strongly remember the fish curry I had while in Mamallapuram and the strong flavor of curry leaves in it. It also brought to mind the early morning soup that was served with breakfast and the zing-a-ding to the coconut chutney. Suddently I missed India. It’s amazing how a smell can totally mesmerize you and transport you back to another place and time.

We cooked Indian for dinner Monday night, H took care of the lentils while I took care of the chicken. Upon getting back from the grocery, I exclaimed “do you know how much a few sprigs of this cost at Rustan’s? 45 pesos!”

To which H replied “We’re rich!”

Pop’s Indian Chicken recipe

  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • onion, chopped
  • chicken breast fillet, 250 g
  • coconut milk, 1c
  • salt
  • mustard seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves

Marinate the chicken with the powder ingredients and leave in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours.

Saute onions in oil, then add chicken and fry over low heat. Add coconut milk, salt and mustard seeds, then simmer. Add curry leaves, then simmer for another 5 minutes.

I wish I could’ve taken a picture to post with the recipe! We served this with roti we purchased from Assad’s, it was grrreeeeeaaat. Needless to say, what was growing in our backyard was indeed a curry tree. 🙂

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennette permalink
    January 16, 2010 6:50 am

    Hi. I like Sri Lankan chicken briyani a lot and now that I’m about to go back to Philippines, I would like to get this dish made in our house. Ready to made briyani packets are available but I’d like to do it from scratch. As I was surfing the net looking for curry leaves supplier in Philippines, I stumbled upon your blog.

    I’m wondering if you could point me where I could get seedlings for a curry tree in Manila.

    • sugarhigh37 permalink*
      January 17, 2010 12:09 pm

      You could go to EDSA Garden house, please find my other blog post. They sell curry tree seedlings 🙂

  2. Arup permalink
    April 23, 2010 11:25 am


    South Indian food is quite different from North Indian or food from Bengal, its a pity you didn’t get to taste the huge variety, Bengal is quite mild compared to South Indian and North is a meat lover’s paradise with its tandoori which is famous globally. Next time you are in India, do try India’s best that is Mughal cuisine, this is the kababs done right, you will find it far more aromatic and flavorful than its counterparts elsewhere on earth. Curry leaf is a typical south Indian addition to cooking not found in north Indian dishes anywhere.

    • sugarhigh37 permalink*
      April 27, 2010 4:34 pm

      My mouth is watering just thinking about the food you just described! Thanks for the tip i’m definitely going back and will try to chow down the cuisine you just mentioned. Cheers!

  3. Liduvina L. Namocatcat permalink
    December 23, 2010 5:32 am

    Hi! Do u sell some stem of your curry leaf plant? I’m interested in planting it in my place too. Thanx.

    • sugarhigh37 permalink*
      December 23, 2010 5:46 am

      Nope, you can buy it from EDSA Garden House.

  4. Nur Eeman Aljani permalink
    February 14, 2011 5:58 am


    Could you ship out some seedlings for me here in Sultan Kudarat, I will really be extremely happy if you coulde do so, I will cover the shipping and of course the cost of about 5 seedlings.

    • sugarhigh37 permalink*
      February 21, 2011 4:32 pm

      Sorry, I’m just a blogger and I don’t do services 🙂 They grow wild all over the Phils, I’ve seen it at roadsides here sa Manila, make a research on how the leaves look like up close, i’m sure if you look around sa SK you will find it. Good luck!

    • Arlyn Naig Jolloso permalink
      September 28, 2012 5:50 am

      Do you still interested in Curry tree seedlings? I have a lot. Kindly email me if you are still interested. Thanks!

  5. nea permalink
    June 8, 2011 9:49 am

    hi im currently working here in bahrain and i find these curry leaves really very aromatic and taste nice then i think of bringing it to philippines when i go vacation and cook something with. Now i know where to buy. Thanks for the info..god bless

  6. July 9, 2011 2:57 pm

    hi! where can i buy curry leaves?i need it for cooking,thanks.

    • marie permalink
      November 3, 2011 1:38 am

      SM North Edsa Hypemart sells curry leaves.

  7. December 6, 2011 1:18 am

    Hi! do they sell ready-to-use curry leaves in EDSA Garden House? or seedlings only? Thank you so much!

    • sugarhigh37 permalink*
      January 3, 2013 3:08 am

      Seedlings. But as soon as a curry tree has leaves anyway its ready to use

  8. Park, Bong Ja permalink
    December 13, 2011 5:07 pm

    I would like to buy curry seedling.Please let me know. Thnaks

  9. Jackie permalink
    January 25, 2012 6:28 am

    hello.. i’m an FEU student.. and i just desperately need few sprigs of curry leaves for my project.. i will be cooking SIngaporean cereal prawns for my project. are you sure that i can buy it at rustan’s department store? thank you

  10. Jason permalink
    March 22, 2012 3:44 pm

    Here are my thoughts on Curry leaf recipes that are suitable for Filipino tastes. I have personally made these recipes, and they are great. They are not Indian or Thai, and I am not Filipino, but I would be happy to call it a “Filipino” curry dish if folks here got interested.

    Curry leaves are best fried, especially in mustard oil or virgin coconut oil. Try this for curry paste…

    Fry curry leaves with their stems along with green and/or red chilis (depending on whether you’re making green curry or red and yellow curries), chopped garlic and shallots (Bumbay), and for green curry you can fry coriander seed (easily obtainable at the traditional medicine stand in your local wet market) and white peppercorns or fresh green peppercorns.

    For green curry (Best for red meat and chicken):

    Place fried contents in a food processor with tender galangal shoots (langkawas/white ginger), Biasong lime peel, lemon grass core, and coriander root.

    Blend the contents to make green curry paste.
    Boil the paste in coconut milk and meat, add vegetables last.

    For red curry paste (Best for shellfish, tofu, or laksa noodle soup):

    Place fried contents in a food processor with tender galangal shoots (langkawas/white ginger), Biasong lime peel, lemon grass core, tomato paste or torch ginger flower (if available), tamarind paste, and cinnamon powder (optional).

    Blend to make paste.
    Boil with coconut milk.
    Add other ingredients before serving.

    To make yellow curry (Best for fish):

    Place fried contents in a food processor with peeled ginger, peeled turmeric root (Kalawag), Biasong lime peel, lemon grass core and tamarind paste.

    Tasty and fragrant garnishing could be basil, coriander, or even mint. You can experiment with different meats and vegetables you like and see what is good for your family. You can also adjust the ingredients that make up the paste to your liking. Curry leaves are a subtle but essential flavor that permeates any curry dish you make.

    Fried curry leaves also make a tasty garnishing for atsara.
    Curry leaves fried in virgin coconut oil makes a lovely side dish all to themselves and go great with typical beach foods like barbequed skewers.

  11. Sri permalink
    November 29, 2012 8:11 am

    Hi where can I buy curry leaves?

  12. Nesh permalink
    December 13, 2012 1:26 am

    I am in Pampanga Philippines and have been looking for curry leaves or the plant itself. I hope someone can tell me where I could get this

    • sugarhigh37 permalink*
      January 3, 2013 3:02 am

      Edsa Garden house along edsa cor q ave

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