The herb that is most commonly associated with Indian cuisine is cilantro. In Southern India, curry leaves are as important as cilantro. They are full of iron, folic acid and other amazing things that all green leafy herbs have that we need, vegetarian or not.
My early memories of curry leaves are from visits to my grandparents house in India. They had a huge curry leaf tree in their side garden. Curry leaves have a distinctive fragrance and are always part of the seasoning of South Indian dishes. When it was time to prepare the meal of the day, my brother and I would help pick the curry leaves. We used to stand on the upstairs balcony to be able to reach the best leaves on the tree.
Curry leaves are added to stir fries, soups…almost any Southern Indian dish. If you want to find them in the US, you need to go to an Indian grocery store. They are not available in mainstream stores. Many Indians in the US actually grow their own curry leaf plants at home. This particular recipe calls for quite a bit of curry leaves. I have to thank my sister-in-law and my mom for sharing the leaves from the curry leaf plants growing in their gardens.
I am calling this dish “Curry Leaf Pesto.” In Southern Indian, this dish is called a “thuvaiyal.” There is some protein, in the form of urad dal, spice and greens all roasted and ground into a fragrant paste.
It can be eaten in a number of simple ways. We usually just serve it mixed with cooked rice (similar to how basil pesto is mixed with pasta). Another possibility- stir a spoonful into a tomato soup, like the “rasam” I shared with you earlier to add fragrance and flavor.