THE enticing sizzle of curry leaves hitting hot oil and the delightful aroma they release is a sensory experience like no other.

With their woody, earthy fragrance reminiscent of lemongrass, curry leaves are a true gem in the world of cooking.

First things first, let’s clear the air — curry leaves are a herb, distinct from curry powder.

While curry powder is a blend of various spices, curry leaves, when fried, add their unique flavour profile to dishes, especially in South Indian, Sri Lankan and South-east Asian cuisines.

These glossy green leaves are a staple in tempering spices or garnishing dishes, infusing nutty and citrusy notes into every bite.

Originating from the curry tree (Murraya koenigii) native to India, curry leaves boast not just flavour but also a plethora of nutrients. Rich in vitamins and minerals, they are prized for their potential anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties in Ayurvedic medicine.

Personally, I love using curry leaves to temper mustard and cumin seeds in hot oil — the resulting aroma is simply magnificent.

Whether flash-frying them for daal, fish curries or vegetable stews or incorporating them as a finale into South Indian chicken and prawn dishes, curry leaves never fail to enhance the flavour profile.

They particularly complement dishes with coconut milk, adding a depth of flavour that is unparalleled.

Rarely added raw, the leaves release their full potential when fried.

Recently, during a collaborative ‘Indian Curry Night’ with a Worcester restaurant, I discovered that the head chef Harry incorporates curry leaf aioli with the cod cheeks on the menu — a delightful surprise!

However, sourcing fresh curry leaves can be a challenge.

Fortunately, many Indian or South-east Asian stores offer curry sprigs in plastic bags and dried leaves are increasingly available in supermarkets.

For long-term storage, fresh curry leaves freeze well in an airtight container, retaining their flavour for several weeks.

After delving into the traditional applications of curry leaves in Indian cuisine, feel free to innovate with your own twists.

With their versatile flavour profile, curry leaves can infuse any dish with a hint of magic, much like how Harry transformed the cod!

Discover an array of recipes featuring curry leaves on my Instagram @suki_curries_spices and website

Don’t miss the opportunity to pre-order my debut cookbook Garnish with Garam Masala for a culinary journey enriched with a blend of curry leaves, spices and tradition.

Our columnist Suki Pantal has spent 36 years in India, is now living in the UK in Malvern and has a treasure trove of home-cooked Indian food recipes and tips.