Malaysian

Chicken & Potato Curry Puffs

by:
November 27, 2020
1 Rating
Photo by JAMES RANSOM. FOOD STYLIST: ANNA BILLINGSKOG. PROP STYLIST: AMANDA WIDIS.
Author Notes

There’s a certain delight in biting down on a savory, meat-filled pastry, a sort of heart-warming, eyes-to-the-back-of-your-head elation as you savor the teeth-tender filling within, as puffs of steam waft out and streaks of thick stewed sauce dribble down your chin. It’s a culinary comfort that can be found in empanadas, Cornish pasties, and sometimes even in a well-timed Hot Pocket. But the meaty pastry dearest to me, the one that brings me joy each time, is a version popularized in my home country of Malaysia—curry puffs.

A curry puff, better known by its butchered phonetic Malay spelling, karipap, is a flaky, deep-fried dumpling stuffed with curry. The best curry puffs have a pastry shell made of spirals of dough that when deep-fried turn into a crispy, flaky blanket for the curry to nestle within. As for the curry, think nibble-sized cubes of chicken, potatoes, sometimes carrots, and cilantro, cooked down and folded through a thick, rich, cumin-forward Malaysian curry.

I often get my curry puffs from the street-side stalls and Malay restaurants serving them all across Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital. The best I’ve had so far—and I’ve had many in the 20-odd years I’ve lived here—are the ones sold at a small stall called HOMI. Their curry puffs are boisterously big, with a crackload of crispy folds in the pastry that shatter as you sink your teeth into it.

Since the start of the pandemic, I haven’t had many curry puffs. So, to end my near year-long curry puff drought, I thought to make some for myself, and in the spirit of festive gift-giving, I made extra for friends, family, and whoever is in need of a curry puff pick-me-up. After all, with the many sweet treats that’s sure to grace our kitchens this festive season, a curried pastry could be a much welcomed savory respite.

To make these curry puffs, I like to cook the curry the day before, stirring up a pot of cubed chicken breasts, potatoes, and aromatics, stewing them gently before leaving the curry to thicken overnight in the fridge. Then, the next day, it’s time for the dough. For this, two separate doughs are needed—an “oil dough,” made by combining shortening (or oil) and flour, and a “water dough," which is mainly water and flour. The oil dough will fry up into incessantly crispy layers, while the water dough serves to give the curry puff structure. These two doughs are wrapped together and rolled out, before being spiraled into a log and cut up into individual curry-wrappers. Then, after some deft filling-and-pleating, and after a bubbly bath in the deep-fryer, these golden dumplings are ready to be eaten, and gifted!

While they might not seem like your go-to holiday treat, with this year’s festivities feeling so different, I think it’s the best time to change up our expectations of festive food gifts. So to friends and family, in amongst the candy canes, fruit cakes, and gingerbread men this year, don’t be surprised if you find a pastry bundle of curry, cheer, and joy. —Jun

Test Kitchen Notes

These curry puffs are part of Recipes to Give & Share, a collection of perfectly packable holiday treats that we're sending to our loved ones this year. —The Editors

  • Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • makes 24 curry puffs
Ingredients
  • Curry Filling
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons mild to medium curry powder
  • 20 fresh curry leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 medium Russet potatoes (250g), or any other similar potato, diced into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 chicken breast (150g), diced into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Oil dough
  • 1 1/2 cups (180g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup (100g) vegetable shortening, can be substituted with lard or butter (with slight differences in the final texture)
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable oil
  • Water dough
  • 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) water
  • Assembly
  • 3 cups vegetable oil, plus more as needed
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Make the filling

    Pour the oil into a pot or deep pan, and heat it over medium heat until the oil starts to shimmer. Add in the diced onions and minced garlic, and let it sweat for 2 to 3 minutes. Then, add in the curry powder and curry leaves, along with the salt, pepper, and brown sugar, and cook on medium heat for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the curry powder darkens and releases its aroma.

    Add the diced potatoes and chicken to the curry paste, and give it a quick mix so the potatoes and chicken are evenly coated. Let this mixture cook for about 5 minutes. Then, add the water to the pot until the mixture is just covered (you might not need the whole 2 cups), bring it to a simmer and let it cook for around 8-10 minutes, uncovered, until the potatoes are completely cooked and the mixture turns thick.

    When the curry is done, remove it from the heat and cool to room temperature, before refrigerating for at least an hour.

    This curry filling can be made a day ahead, and you’re very likely to end up with more curry than you can fit into the curry puffs, but it makes for a great dinner dish on its own.
  2. Make the oil dough

    Sift the flour and cornstarch into a medium mixing bowl, then rub the shortening into the dry ingredients to form a shaggy mixture. Add in the oil, and knead it all together until it forms a smooth, even dough. Roll it into a ball, and let it rest in the bowl for 10 to 15 minutes, covered with a kitchen towel, while you make the water dough
  3. Make the water dough

    Sift the flour, cornstarch, and salt in a heat-proof bowl. Then, heat up the oil in a small saucepan until it’s just smoking, and pour it into the dry ingredients. Give it a rough mix with a spoon or spatula until a shaggy mixture forms. Add the water to this mixture, and knead until it all comes together. This dough won’t be as smooth as the oil dough, and that’s completely normal. As before, let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Combine the two doughs

    Roll out the water dough into a large disc roughly 12 inches in diameter. Then, place the oil dough in the middle of the disc, and wrap the water dough all around the oil dough, pinching the ends together so the oil dough is completely sealed inside.
  5. Roll out the combined doughs

    Place the combined hunk of a dough onto a lightly floured surface, then, with a rolling pin, roll it out into a large rectangle, about 15-inch x 10-inches.

    Then, roll this up on the shorter side to form a Swiss-roll-like log. Rotate the log by 90°, and repeat the process of flattening it out into a large rectangle again, and rolling it up into a log.

    Cut the log into ½-inch thick pieces (you should get 20 to 24 individual pieces here).
  6. Fill the dough

    Take one of the dough spirals and cover the rest with a kitchen towel so they don’t dry out. Roll the individual dough out into a circle around 5 inches in diameter.

    Place 2 tablespoons of the curry filling onto the middle of the dough circle, and dab a little water along the sides of the dough. Fold the dough into a half-moon, making sure the filling is completely enclosed. Pinch and seal the sides shut so it resembles a Chinese jiaozi dumpling. Then, crimp the edges with your fingers, folding the sides down and pressing on it. Repeat with the rest of the doughs until they are all filled.
  7. Deep fry the curry puffs

    We’re going to deep-fry the curry puffs! Pour 3 to 4 cups of oil into a pot, or until there’s at least 4 inches of oil. Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 300°F.

    Gently lower a few curry puffs into the oil, making sure not to overcrowd the pot, and deep-fry the curry puffs for about 5 minutes, until the skin of the curry puffs turn golden brown. When done, remove the curry puffs from the oil and place them onto a wire rack to allow any excess oil to drip off. Fry the rest of the curry puffs in batches.

    The curry puffs are best had warm, and makes for a great breakfast or tea-time snack!

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Engineer + cook + food blogger. All about cross-cultural cooking, funky-fresh ferments, and abusing alliteration.