5 -10 curry leaves (Optional) – You see this in most of my recipes. I feel guilty about it. However, the reason for that is the unavailability of it in certain places. If you think you can get it, please pardon me, and it is a MUST for “real” Indian cooks and I will tell you why through the following personal story of mine:
The year was 1985, and I was pregnant with my second daughter. Just like any Indian woman, I wanted to have my mother beside me during the delivery and at least few more months afterwards. I couldn’t have her here for the birth of my first child. Let me point out this first, this was before the Indian Tech H1B’s convinced the American Consulate in India that it is culturally and traditionally imperative that the mothers SHOULD be in US for their daughter’s delivery.
After much persuasion from family, friends and most of the inhabitants from my native village, my mother agreed. Her reluctance was not due to the fact that she has only elementary school education and cannot speak a word of English other than the English words the British left behind or those Tech and Science words for which there are no Malayalam (her native language) synonyms. The true reason for her reluctance was because (she told me later) somebody told her that she could end up wearing pants just like men in America.
To make a long story short, she arrived in Washington DC after 24+ hrs. of travel. She actually enjoyed the trip, except her Kerala style cotton Sari was crumpled and according to her it looked like she slept in it.
Of course I was thrilled to have her. I craved for her wonderful authentic cooking which only a village woman can do. I went to Giant, the grocery store near us, and bought enough stuff to make couple of non-veg and vegetarian dishes. Remember, this was 1985 and we did not have Ethnic grocery stores every 100 feet in Washington DC area. I went to work and all day at the office I was salivating for the dinner my mother is going to make. Took an early train home and walked through the front door. No, The Masala aroma I was expecting wasn’t there. My Mother greeted me with a rather sad voice and her disappointment clearly showed in her face. She said, “I could not cook, how can I cook, there was no curry leaves any where, not in the fridge or in the bags. I don’t see a curry leaves tree outside either. What am I to do?”
First, I was stunned, then, I laughed. She is right, how can her cooking be complete without Curry leaves?