Curry leaves are essential to South Indian cooking. Curry leaves add a fresh citrus fragrance to food that is simply irresistible. Most South Indian recipes call for an initial spicing method which includes ghee (clarified butter, coconut oil, peanut oil), heated and then adding whole spices such as cumin seed and mustard seed, turmeric powder, coriander powder, curry leaves, asafoetida, fresh ginger and fresh green chillies. The hot ghee draws out their aroma and medicinal properties. The main ingredients of vegetables, fish, dhal or rice are added once the aromatics release their fragrance. The dish is then steamed in the spices. For other dishes like lentils, chutney and yoghurt or buttermilk the fried Curry Leaves and popped spices are used as a spice garnish.
Fresh Curry Leaves have a short life in the fridge and dried tend to be bland. Curry leaves are not the same as curry powder which is a blend of dry spices. Curry leaves are a fresh herb.