Curry Puffs

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I was sort of obsessed with eating all the things when I visited Singapore a few years ago. I mean, it’s the best food city on earth (don’t @ me). When it was time to leave, I realized I hadn’t yet tried one of the most Singaporean of snacks, curry puffs! Think curried chicken and potatoes in a deep-fried pastry shell. Yeah. I hurriedly bought one at Changi Airport right as we were boarding and savored the carby, meaty, buttery goodness right before saying goodbye.

I can’t find curry puffs in the Bay Area, but I can make them with relative ease at home. I take a shortcut with puff pastry and I oven bake them so they’re a bit healthier, but they’re just as delicious.

Curry puffs

Ingredients:

1 small potato, boiled, peeled, and cut into cubes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/2 onion, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder (I used a blend of Madras curry powder and homemade Jaffna curry powder)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, then add ginger, onion, and green onions, and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until onion begins to brown. Add chicken and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Stir in potato, curry powder, and soy sauce. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and lightly mash with a potato ricer.

2. Preheat oven to 375F degrees. In the meantime, on a floured board, roll out puff pastry to a thickness of about 1/4 inch; cut into 4-inch circles. Place 1 tablespoon filling on each circle. Brush edges with egg wash, fold dough to make half-moons, and press edges to seal.

3. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush tops with remaining egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Tomato Curry

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What do you do when you have too many tomatoes? Make tomato curry. This summertime curry is my new surprise favorite — I had an excessive tomato haul and wanted to try something different than salad or tomato sauce. Spicy and savory and slightly sweet from ripened tomatoes’ natural sugars, this whole thing comes together in only a few minutes and is finished with a touch of creamy coconut milk.

If you never thought tomatoes could be the star ingredient in a curry, try this and see if you don’t change your mind. It’s perfect alongside heftier curry, some rice, and pickled things to make a perfect meal.

Tomato curry

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 onion, chopped
1 serrano chili, chopped
1 pound tomatoes, quartered
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground corriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Maldive fish

1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add fenugreek, mustard seeds, curry leaves, cinnamon, onion, serrano chili, and cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, salt, and Maldive fish and cook for another minute, being careful to not burn the mixture.

2. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 7 minutes, until they have softened. Add coconut milk and water, bring to a boil, and simmer until the liquid thickens.

3. Serve as a side curry to a main vegetable, fish, or meat curry alongside rice.

Sri Lankan Coconut Sambol (Pol Sambol)

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Few Sri Lankan meals are complete without pol sambol, the ubiquitous condiment that accompanies rice and curry. Spicy, citrusy, and salty, this coconut sambol brings a cooling element to otherwise fiery food. There are countless variations on pol sambol, but this one is my favorite.

I prefer pol sambol with rice and curry, but it’s also standard alongside roti or buttered bread. And uh, please forgive the poor quality photo. Sometimes you just can’t wait to dig into the pol sambol. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Pol Sambol

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped onion
2 serrano chiles, seeded
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1 sprig curry leaves
2 teaspoons Maldive fish
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup shredded coconut (fresh or previously frozen, not dried)
Juice of 1/2 lime

1. Place onion, serrano chile, garlic, cayenne pepper, curry leaves, and Maldive fish in a food processor and blend. Add the salt, pepper, and coconut and blend until mixture is bound.

2. Remove from food processor and put in a bowl, mix in lime juice, and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour, covered, for flavors to blend, before serving.

Sri Lankan Caramel Pudding

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A nation’s cuisine is in many ways a reflection of its history. Take Sri Lanka, for example. Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim, Indian, Indonesian, Dutch, and Portuguese influence factor into everything from street food to curries to desserts, a reminder of trade routes, colonization, and migration.

One of the sweeter examples is caramel pudding, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Portuguese flan. I include a tiny bit of ground cardamom in my version, but you can omit it. Either way, it’s a perfect cooling treat at the end of a Sri Lankan meal.

Sri Lankan Caramel Pudding

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons sugar
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cans water
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1. Heat sugar with 1 tablespoon water in a 2 quart stainless steel mold or saucepan until the color of amber. Swirl the melted sugar to coat base and sides, being careful to not let the caramel burn.

2. In a bowl, mix condensed milk, water, eggs, vanilla, and cardamom.

3. Pour mixture into the prepared mold or saucepan, cover with aluminum foil, and steam in a double boiler for 30 minutes until set. (The water should not boil under it but simmer.)

4. Remove from heat, remove foil, and allow to cool.

5. Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours before serving. Serve chilled.

Mixed Vegetable and Yogurt Pachadi

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This “salad” of sorts is actually a pachadi, or a south Indian yogurt-based side dish not unlike raita, its north Indian counterpart. This pachadi is endlessly adaptable — feel free to use more or less of whichever vegetable depending on your preference. Easy to prepare, this makes a perfect accompaniment alongside rice.

Also, please ignore the awful lighting in this photo. I mean, sometimes you just gotta eat the pachadi and there’s no time for perfect lighting, amirite?

Mixed vegetable curd salad

Ingredients:

1 cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 green chili, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
2 cups yogurt
salt, to taste
2 teaspoons oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon urad dal
1 teaspoon chana dal (yellow split peas)
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1 red chili, halved lengthwise
1 sprig curry leaves

1. In a bowl, mix the cucumber, tomato, onion, green chili, and cilantro leaves with the yogurt, adding salt to taste.

2. Heat oil in a small skillet and add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urad dal, chana dal, asafoetida powder, red chili, and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds begin to sputter, add this mixture to the yogurt and mix thoroughly. Serve cold or at room temperature.