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Curry Puffs



The ubiquitous curry puff we see in Malaysian school canteens, street stalls, night markets, office parties is retro but never out of fashion. Its origins in South East Asia are unclear but are rumoured to have been influenced by the Portuguese on their spice route in the 1500s. Think the empanada, Cornish pastry and Indian samosa all rolled into one. That’s Malaysia for you: its diversity creating an interesting mélange, and they often turn out pretty tasty too.

A curry puff, or a karipap as it is known in Malaysia, is a flaky pocket of dough that usually has a savoury spicy filling. These hand held little pies are usually fried, and eaten as snacks. There are a variety of fillings but admittedly not as varied as the ones you find in Latin America or at the Mercado de la Boqueria in Barcelona where we went this summer.

Yes, I'm still reminiscing over summer now that we are officially in autumn and its about 7°C outside. That's quite a drastic change from the summer's near 40°C. Sigh.

I just had to get that photo in there but let's go back to the story. Chez moi, there are several choices of savoury curried spicy fillings: chicken and potato, minced beef and potato, sardines, sweet potatoes. Premium ones may contain a slice of hard-boiled egg. There is also a sweet smaller version with peanuts, sesame seeds and sugar. This is usually made for special festive occasions like Chinese New Year or end of Ramadan.


At parties, the karipap never fails to show up. It's not the most sophisticated party appetiser, but it is one that is common to all the different cultures in Malaysia. For many years now, I have made it for my French in-laws' family gatherings especially in August, when the extended family get together to celebrate the feast of Assumption. The lunch menu is strictly traditional, and Someone help me should I deviate from it (one year I served white beans instead of green flageolet beans as a side dish and am still hearing about it today). My husband's aunt and I take turns hosting it and there is always a theme. Everyone is very involved in the preparation, from the cooking to the decoration but mainly in the eating.

Melons, gnocchi-like quenelle in a tomato and olives sauce, roast leg of lamb, French beans and flageolets, cheese, chocolate marquise is the time-honoured menu. We spend hours at the table, then there is a little walk or a game before coming back to prepare dinner. This is where I have managed to add a little twist to the tradition: enter the curry puff. It now takes centre stage at the evening meal (where everyone is - amazingly - still hungry).

At this point, I have a confession to make. The curry puffs I have been making here in France look nothing like the ones back home. Well, like they say, there are more ways than one to skin a cat. I know, terrible proverb.

To save myself some time and trouble, I use store-bought puff pastry. They come pre-rolled and all I have to do is to cook the filling a day or two before. The day of the party, I quickly assemble them, brush egg-wash over and pop them in the oven. If you have ample freezer space, you can make and fold them, freeze them and just bake them when you need to.

For the purists, if time is not of the essence, it's actually quite therapeutic and satisfying to roll, wrap and crimp each curry puff by hand. Next week I shall share the recipe for that version. But in the meantime, this one is fail-proof. Summer is indeed over. Is it too early to plan for Christmas?


I have included two different filling recipes here. One uses a ready-mixed curry powder for meat curries and the other is a mix of spices that you may find easily in your own pantry. The second I've only cooked with beef, but there is no reason you cannot replace it with chicken or vegetables.


It's less daunting to make the filling the day before, then assemble and bake on the day of the party. Or even better, make everything in advance, freeze then bake them when you need.


Curry Puffs


FILLINGS

INGREDIENTS

Makes 48 to 56 curry puffs

Prep Time 15 to 20 mins/Cook Time 40 mins/Total Time 55 to 60 mins


Chicken and Potato Curry

  • 1/2 onion, peeled

  • 3 shallots, peeled

  • 2 clove garlic, peeled

  • 3 tbsps cooking oil

  • 3 cloves

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 25 gms curry powder of choice, mixed into paste with 1/4 cup water

  • Optional: stalk of curry leaves

  • 500 gms chicken meat, cut in medium-size dices (choice of breast or boneless thigh)

  • 500 gms potatoes, peeled and diced, parboiled 10 mins

  • 200 ml water


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Peel and cut into chunks onion, shallot and garlic. Blend them in a food processor, adding a tablespoon of water if necessary.

  2. Heat oil, add the blended onion, shallots and garlic. Over medium heat, stir and cook till translucent.

  3. Add the curry powder paste, cloves and cinnamon stick (and the optional curry leaves). Continue stirring, until the mixture is fragrant and releases its own oil.

  4. Add the diced chicken and potatoes, mix well.

  5. Add water, allow to cook gently till water is evaporated and curry is thick and potatoes soft.

  6. Remove cloves and cinnamon stick.

  7. Allow to cool completely before using or refrigerate overnight.


Note: you can use the same recipe above and substitute the chicken with beef mince or with vegetables like cauliflower, chickpeas, carrots, peas, potatoes for a vegetarian option.


Beef and Potato Curry


INGREDIENTS

Makes 48 to 56 curry puffs

Prep Time 15 to 20 mins/Cook Time 40 mins/Total Time 55 to 60 mins

  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped

  • 3 tbsps cooking oil

  • 3 cloves

  • 1 star anise

  • 500 gms minced beef

  • 500 gms potatoes, peeled and diced

  • 200 ml water

  • 2 tbsps natural yogurt

  • Salt

Spices

  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper

  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (or more as preferred)

  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander

  • 1 tsp ground cumin

  • 1/2 tsp ground fennel

  • 1/2 tsp turmeric

  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp group cardamom

  • 1 tbsp water


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Peel and chop onions.

  2. Heat 3 tbsps cooking oil in a heavy-bottom pan or pot. Add onions over medium heat, add a pinch of salt and cook till translucent, stirring occasionally.

  3. In the meantime, peel and dice the potatoes. Set aside.

  4. Put all the spices together in small bowl, add 1 tbsp of water to mix into a paste.

  5. Add the spice paste into the pan together with the cloves and star anise. Cook about 2 minutes.

  6. Push mix to the side and add the minced beef in three parts, each time allowing beef to cook before adding more.

  7. Add the diced potatoes, mix well. Add 1 cup of water, stir through, cover and simmer till potatoes are soft, about 40 minutes.

  8. Stir in 2 tbsps yogurt, let cook another 2 minutes.

  9. Remove cloves and star anise, allow to cool completely before using or refrigerate overnight.


Curry Puffs


INGREDIENTS

Makes 48 to 56 pieces

Prep Time 20 min/Cook Time 20 to 30 mins/Total Time 40 to 50 mins (not including making filling)

  • 4 pieces puff pastry

  • (round approximately 28 cm in diameter; rectangular approximately 32 cm X 25 cm)

  • Preferred Filling

  • 1 egg, beaten with one tsp water

  • Optional: poppy seeds


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C, or according to cooking instructions on pastry packaging.

  2. On a round piece of pastry, fold in half, then cut into two pieces, yielding total of three pieces ie one rectangular and two halves of a semi-circle. If you have rectangular pastry, cut into two lengthwise.

  3. Gently spoon filling, fold over and press to seal, then crimp with a fork. (at this stage you may freeze for later if you wish)

  4. Brush with egg wash. Cut in pieces.

  5. Optional: garnish with poppy seeds.

  6. Bake 20 to 30 minutes (or according to cooking instructions on pastry packaging) until golden brown.



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