UBIQUITOUS PRESENCE OF CURRY LEAVES IN SOUTH INDIAN FOOD AND THEIR HEALTH BENEFITS
Curry leaves, botanically classified as Murraya koenigii, also known as Karieppilai, Karivepaaku, Kari Patta, and Sweet neem leaves, are native to India and Sri Lanka and are abundantly grown and used in neighboring South East Asian countries.
Curry leaves are a staple green added to most of the South Indian dishes. They are not technically a spice, but they play a huge roll in flavoring dishes .They are used both as a fresh seasoning and as part of several spice mixes. They exude a heavenly aroma, reminiscent of fresh herbs and citrus when fried in oil. The fresher the leaves, the darker green and crisper they are.
Fresh curry leaves can be added either at the beginning of the cooking process or as part of an oil seasoning at the end of the process. To use at the beginning of cooking, they can be sautéed with onions, ginger and garlic. When used at the end, curry leaves are part of a tempering process, which involves heating up oil and sizzling in cumin leaves, whole garlic, whole dried chilies and curry leaves. This tempering is poured directly on to the cooked dish, which is then covered. The pot is uncovered at the table to release the delicious trapped aromas and the tempering is then stirred into the dish. This is a very common process when making dals or rasams, or simple vegetable dishes in South Indian Kitchens.
Have you ever wondered why these leaves have been used for centuries in our cooking? Let us revisit the health benefits and nutrients contained in these humble-looking leaves to understand more about it.
- Curry leaves contain very essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins A, B, C and E, and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and iron.
- They also contain antioxidant compounds, flavonoids, and many plant sterols.
- The fiber present in curry leaves also has an additional sugar-control effect, and thus helps control diabetes.
- They have no fat. This helps in losing weight, treating diarrhea, constipation and other digestive troubles.
- The iron and folic acid present in them help prevent and fight anemia.
- They also help reduce bad blood cholesterol (LDL) levels due to their high fiber content.
- The presence of many antioxidant compounds and vitamins A and C protects the liver from infections and harmful free radicals.
- They also promote the growth of hair follicles and delay the onset of cataract.
- The linalol present in curry leaves helps in alleviating stress, anxiety and depression.
- They are rich in kaempferol, which is a wonderful remedy for respiratory issues like cold, and other sinus ailments.
Reading this blog post must have made you understand that this humble curry leaf is a powerhouse of health. Next time you visit South Indian Cuisine, and find this miracle herb in its dish, don’t push it to the side of your plate but eat it!