Curry Leaf in the Philippines
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
- 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. 🙂