Embellishing, aromatic and tangy

Embellishing, aromatic and tangy

Those who regular have South Indian cuisine must be familiar with the taste and flavour of aromatic curry leaves or kari patta.

No South Indian dish is complete without curry leaves which not only add to the aroma but also aid in digestion as they are high in anti-oxidants. The plant is found in India and Sri Lanka.

Curry leaves, also known as meetha neem as they resemble neem leaves, are a vital ingredient in all South Indian vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes either as seasoning or spice, fried along with other spices in the first stage of preparation. Various medicinal and cooking usage of curry leaves, that taste citrusy and slightly bitter, also find mention in centuries old Tamil literature and Kannada texts. However, it is mainly used for its aroma.

Sharath Gopalakrishnan, who hails from Kerala and stays in Delhi, says, “We use kari patta in sambhar, avial, rasam, thoran and what not since the time we don’t even remember. In fact, it is being used in fish dishes also. I have cholesterol problem. It is good in controlling that too.”

Largely used as seasoning in curries to provide tangy flavour, some also use it in the form of powder, which is a combination of many ingredients like ginger, chilli, pepper, cumin, black coriander, garlic, fenugreek, and turmeric to give the yellow colour.
“My mother uses curry leaves in almost every dish, be it curry, dry aloo, stuffed parathas, pulav and many others. In fact, we have a curry leaves tree in our backyard,” says Kiran Sharma, a professional.

The leaves have the quality of regulating functions of the stomach. Fresh leaves taken with pepper corns in the morning are believed to bring down blood sugar levels. Roasted leaves are used to do away feelings of nausea. Though primarily used in southern India, curry leaves are increasingly becoming popular among north Indian households too. The plant with pointy leaves grows easily in pots and demands little care.

Curry leaves are widely used in Ayurvedic medications also for the treatment of diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. Dr Karuna Malhotra, homeopath physician from Cosmetic Skin and Homeo Clinic, says sweet neem includes phosphorous, calcium, iron and vitamin C. They also contain some amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fibre.

“Curry leaves has many benefits. Its juice cures irritation from insect bites. It can also be used for treating minor burns, removing fats from the body and controlling cholesterol level. Since curry leaves have weight educing properties, they also can cure diabetes
induced obesity.”