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The Little Trick We Learned from London’s Best Curry Houses

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What dish defines how Londoners are eating now? We asked leaders in the city's food scene to share a recipe that says "London" to them.

An ingredient that we love and we feel represents London right now is curry leaves—especially fried curry leaves. We first tasted them at HIX Oyster & Chop House on top of mutton chop curry. We had one bite and have since been hooked.

Madhur Jaffrey Told Me to Use My Curry Leaves, Pronto
Madhur Jaffrey Told Me to Use My Curry Leaves, Pronto

You can also find fried curry leaves in some of London’s best curry houses, like Gymkhana and Hoppers. The Indian food here in London is exciting in that it is modern and yet has a deep-rooted history of spice and flavor. Though we are not Indian, we do use a lot of spices in our cooking. Curry leaves is one of our firm favorites.

The oils from this leaf add an incredibly aromatic, fenugreek sweetness with a hint of citrus to your dish. Deep frying the leaves turns them into these lovely fragrant curry crisps—they become almost like a seasoning of curry spice. We use them a lot on top of our fritters, like the Spring Vegetable Fritters, Cucumber Yogurt & Curry Leaves from our book, Ducksoup.

We also do a dish in the summer of fresh peas, pea shoots, green onions, labneh, and fried curry leaves: Simply fry the green onion gently and quickly blanch the peas, then combine onions, peas, and pea shoots, spoon some labneh over them, sprinkle with your fried curry leaves and a little of the oil you cooked them in, and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Photo by Sang An

Frying at home can put some people off, but these are really just shallow fried, so nothing to worry about. You can buy curry leaves from good Asian grocers or online, although fresh curry leaves may not be available all year round. However, they will keep very nicely in the freezer.

Ducksoup's Spring Vegetable Fritters, Cucumber Yogurt & Curry Leaves
Ducksoup's Spring Vegetable Fritters, Cucumber Yogurt & Curry Leaves

Though frying is our favorite, you can do plenty more with curry leaves; don’t be afraid to add them to any dish where you’re using spices because they will naturally enhance the dish, and don’t forget to pour that delicious infused oil you’ve cooked them in over the top too.

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Ducksoup's Spring Vegetable Fritters, Cucumber Yogurt & Curry Leaves

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Serves 4

For the fritters:

  • 8 ounces asparagus, asparagus, woody ends snapped off, sliced into 1⁄4-inch rounds
  • 8 ounces peas
  • 8 ounces fava beans
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 mall bunch wild garlic leaves (replace with 1 crushed garlic clove if wild garlic is not in season)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups 00 flour
  • 2 1/4 cups ice-cold sparkling water
  • Vegetable or sunflower oil, for frying
  • Handful of curry leaves
  • Good pinch of sumac
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the cucumber yogurt:

  • 1/2 cucumber, cut lengthwise, seeds scooped out
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Handful of mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Go to Recipe

To see the rest of our Food52 Goes to London guide, head here.