Also known as ‘sweet neem leaves’, mitho limado, kari patah, and many other names, the leaves of the curry tree are especially popular in South Indian dals, curries and other dishes, but are widely used all over South Asia, from Pakistan to Sri Lanka. They’re a key element of many a ‘tarka’, the cooking technique of carefully sizzling whole spices in hot oil until the flavours are softened and infused. The oil and spices can then be used either as the base or the finishing touch of a dish.
If you’ve only ever tried using dried curry leaves, prepare for a revelation. Dried leaves lose their fragrance and flavour very rapidly, so by the time they’re sizzling away in your pan, it’s already too late. But once you put a fresh leaf in that pan, letting it fry gently until almost translucent and slightly crisp? You’ll never forget that smell, nor the intense, heady flavour you’ve imparted to your latest creation.