Curry Plant with Bitter Aftertaste
Answered by: Yvonne Tremblay and Conrad Richter
Question from: Reuel Newman
Posted on: February 02, 2005

How can I use the curry plant? I tried it in a dish the other day but it left a horribly bitter after-taste. Any suggestions?

It is important distinguish what plant you have. The term "curry" is used to refer to several very different plants and to a powdered mixture of spices. Curry powder is universally known and every grocery store stocks the blend. For some basic recipes for the spice blend, see: http://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=./QandA/Culinary/19990118-2.html

The plant you have is likely to be one of the Helichrysums that have scented leaves that roughly resemble curry powder. Richters lists it as "Curry Plant". This plant does have limited culinary use, but its aroma does not translate into the same "curry" flavour of the familiar spice mix. If you are using the leaves of curry plant in place of curry spice, you will be disappointed. Previous postings to the "Q&A" forum have mentioned the bitterness you have noted.

There is another plant that is known as "Curry Leaf". This is an entirely different plant. It has the most wonderful flavour but is completely different from the spice mix and cannot be used in recipes in place of the spice. Curry Leaf is known botanically as Murraya koenigii. It is the shiny green leaf of a small tree native to south and south-east Asia. The leaves are used many East Indian dishes. They are used in the same fashion as bay leaf, usually fried before adding to the recipe, and are removed from the dish before serving. This method may help with the bitter after-taste you experienced. The flavour of fresh curry leaf is much better tasting and more intense than dried. Fresh curry leaves may be frozen. Curry leaf is used to flavour rice, curries, chutney and dal.

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