Auntie Ruby's Curry Puff



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Your mum or grandma must have made some curry puffs that you miss so much.

Commercial ones are not the same. You know that.

We are so busy, huffing and puffing, that the idea of patient pastry recipes like these have become feint memories and a lost tradition. Thus we stuff ourselves with "chunky" ones (sorry, can't resist the pun) and moan about the good old times.

"Wha ah, kali paff tis days tass so bad? I miss my po-po's." (With a mouth full of pastry and mashed potato, it can be hard to speak Singlish properly.)

Making curry puffs may sound like a lot of work for most. And having tried it, I can tell you it is not for the lazy. But my Mum's version has delighted many.

In fact, curry puffs was the last thing my Mum wanted to make before her operation; when she was still conscious. That was what she promised the wonderful nurses at her ward at Mt Elizabeth. She never fulfilled that promise. Not that she could.


You can see that I have sentimental reasons (apart from being greedy) behind my effort to recreate her recipe. It has taken me a while. I finally got round to working on her curry puffs.

So, how did it go? Did we nail it?

We did press it, roll it, fill it, fry it. My gifted niece with her nimble hands worked at the pastry. There is a simple but interesting art in making the spiral design using two types of dough. Since Old Chang Kee crust is plain and simple - and it looks like thousands here love it - the bother to do the pastry this way was not so much to please the palate but to honor my Mum's tradition.

If I am to call it "Auntie Ruby's Curry Puff", it better be. Her curry puff raised the bar very high. And this is one reason why I will hesitate to claim that we have arrived just after just a few tries. No, it is going to take us a many more rounds to perfect it.

In fact the first batch I made tasted so different that my dear called it a "Curry Poof."   

We were dismayed with it. We were amazed by it (version 1.2).  But did we nail it? 

Let's just say that the filling was spot on but mastering the crust - texture, design, size, consistency - will need some further rounds of puffing. Her written recipe for the pastry seemed amiss and it was either her mistake or more likely, her scribe's. After all, it was written that the inner pastry needed 500 kg of flour.

Wow. I can imagine Terry Wonka and his Curry Puff Factory as he dives and disappears into giant heaps of flour.

We corrected the her written recipe and I think we are just about there. Some pieces looked and tasted exactly like hers only to have the next few cracking up or inconsistent. But they all tasted very nice...poof, puff, puff, poof again... but more puffs than poofs, we are getting there.

I will first describe her curry puff and why I think it was so good and popular. And then, you get her "true" recipe.


The Filling

It is not rocket science to do the filling well but I still wonder why so many versions I have tasted did not get this right. I think one reason is the effort put into making the pastry sometimes overshadows the need to do the filling well.

Firstly, her potatoes are cut into half a cm squares. They are not chunky like Old Chang Kee's. And there is no mashing here. It is all hand-cut. Then the diced potato cubes are fried separately first. This ensures separation and subsequent coating with the dry curry spices.

For convenience, my Mum used curry powder. Curry powder is basically powder of spices like coriander, aniseed, cloves etc along with chilli powder and turmeric powder. If the powder is fresh, by all means use it. Then she blends the shallots, yellow ginger and dried chilis. She also added curry leaves.   

There is the usual chicken meat. But she always added prawn meat for the sweetness and some variety to the texture. Adding a piece of boiled egg was a later addition at my request as the famous local versions all have it (and I love especially the old Old Chang Kee which used to be sold very near the old site of Trinity Theological College).

All this is done in the wok. In a sense, the filling wasn't difficult to do. Just put in some effort and the steps are not unlike those needed to make good curry chicken.    

Done right (don't over cook the potato), the filling is very very good. We used to love eating it with white bread whenever she had leftover filling.


The Pastry

Using two types of dough and the rolling method will introduce spiral lines on the crust.  Apart from making it prettier, it also introduces interesting variation in the texture. The crust is closer to Chang Kee's than A1's and Singaporeans will know what I am saying. " My Mum's version will not end up in a clear spiral pattern like A1's. There will be some spiral lines but the use of two type of crust is mainly to create some flaky texture in the crust.

I suppose this is what this blog is about. I could have just copied her recipe and pasted it here. Without sight nor taste to guide you, the recipe is as helpful as giving you a song's lyrics and asking you to sing it when you have not even heard the music or song before. A score will be slightly more helpful ( and most good cookbooks help us that way) but still, unless you have tasted it yourself, you will never be sure.

Bear in mind that my Mum was always on a quest for the best. Don't let the work involved put you off, especially her two-dough spiral approach. You can easily modify it to something simpler. You can even use a cookie cutter to make the rounds. Or you can refine it and I know some bakers who will do prettier and consistently shaped puffs.
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Auntie Ruby's Curry Puff's Recipe

Preparing the filling

Making the paste
15 pieces dried chillies 
5 stalks lemon grass 
20 shallots 
5 buah keras (candlenuts)
1/2 thumb yellow ginger
  1. Soak the dried chillies in hot water and blend. 
  2. Use and dice the lower white part of the lemon grass 
  3. Blend all into a paste 
200g boneless chicken meat 
200 g prawn meat  
1.3 kg yellow potato
2 large onions 
2 bowls of oil
4T curry powder
20 curry leaves
4t sugar
2t salt
1/2 bowl or 100 ml water
10 eggs
  1. Dice the large onions.
  2. Cut chicken and prawns into small pieces/ cubes.
  3. Add curry powder into the water and mix. 
  4. Peel and cut the potatoes into small cubes of about 1/2 cm square and fry in oil in medium heat for about 5 minutes
  5. Remove potatoes and use the oil to fry the paste for about 15 minutes in low heat. 
  6. Add curry paste, salt, sugar, chicken, prawns and onions. Fry for another 10 minutes. Towards the end, add the potatoes and stir/mix. The filling is done. 
  7. Hard boil the eggs and cut into segments.
Making the crust

Curry puff pastry (outside)
1 kg plain flour 
200 g margarine 1t salt
2 cups (400 m) cold water

  1. Mix, knead flour. Add the water bit by bit as you knead.
  2. Separate into 5 balls 
Curry puff pastry (inside)
500 g plain flour
300g margarine

  1. Mix, knead flour
  2. Separate into 5 balls 
Making the curry puff (Check the visuals below)
  1. Flatten outside pastry
  2. Wrap around inside pastry ball. Leave the balls of dough to rest for about 2 hour in the fridge. This will make for easier shaping of the pastry later.  
  3. Flatten both
  4. Roll up tightly and flatten - 3 times
  5. Cut roll into 3 mm width
  6. Flatten individual pastry into rounds to place ingredients
  7. Close pastry over ingredients and create the side "flower".
  8. Ready for deep frying
For storage:
These puffs are suitable for freezing and to be fried just before serving. Place puffs on plastic sheets. Set each piece separately. Place in freezer

To Cook
To deep-fry immediately after removing from freezer. Don’t thaw. Fry it in low heat. The oil must be gently bubbling. When it is light brown remove it. 

Best eaten about half an hour later when the puff is warm but not hot. 

This post won't be the last on her curry puffs. As with all her classic recipes, they just deserve more attention to details so that you can enjoy some of the tastes which I was so blessed to grow up with. I will work at better ways of helping you to replicate her recipes. Stay tuned.

  1. The outer layer pastry - kneaded (divide into 3 portions, not in pic)
  2. The inside pastry - divide into 3 balls
  3. Put one inside pastry ball into a portion of the outside pastry portion which has been flattened.
    Flatten with roller.
  4. Roll up, flatten etc for 3 times.
  5. Flatten gently with a roller across the roll
  6. The log which looked like a swiss roll is formed.
  7. 3-mm slices 
  8. Flatten pastry into a round
  9. Put in the filling.
  10. Pull, press and fold to form the side pattern
Watch this video below on how to make the spiral pastry and flowered sides. This chef also uses two types of dough. 



    Into the oil bath! Small to medium flame. Gentle bubbling
    till light golden brown

    17 comments :

    floberita at: November 3, 2012 at 12:31 PM said...

    looks delicious! Think i will use your filling to make the interior of my western style short crust pastry instead. Your pastry work looks too involved for me, but I'm sure it tastes really yummy. Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing!

    Bee at: January 5, 2013 at 6:32 AM said...

    Do you use chicken breast for the filling?

    The Food Canon at: January 5, 2013 at 7:27 AM said...

    Yes, u can

    Anonymous at: January 6, 2013 at 8:19 PM said...

    I enjoy reading your website very much. On friday I tried your claypot chicken rice recipe. It turned out really well. The use of the salt fish improved the taste very much. My husband and I had a lovely meal. Thanks. Jenny

    123 at: January 9, 2013 at 1:23 PM said...

    looks very good thanks for sharing

    Laser Fungal Nail Treatment at: January 9, 2013 at 1:27 PM said...

    Curry Puff, one of my favorite snack!!
    I like the crispy puff skin & spicy potato...the combination are soooo perfect!

    Anonymous at: February 4, 2013 at 9:31 PM said...

    Having been used to the malay version of boiling the potatoes or cooking alongside the meat, I find your mom's method of frying the potatoes unique. So too the addition of the lemon grass, shallots soaked dried chillies and buah keras. Just wonderful. I'm keen to try the filling first. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful, wonderful recipe.

    Financial Trading Seminars at: April 29, 2013 at 1:43 PM said...

    Thanks for sharing this Curry Puff's recipe

    Anonymous at: July 20, 2013 at 6:12 PM said...

    Hi, i found ur recipe while googling for old chang kee curry puffs. I made em today. Adding lemon grass gives the filling a different taste. Perhaps more m'sian type curry puffs than s'porean ones. And the addition of prawns is a wonderful idea. Its a fab recipe. Def a keeper. Loved it to bits. Oh i even used the left over filling to make mini spring rolls. Was equally tasty. Just a quick question, what type or brand of curry powder did/do u use? I tried it with baba's meat powder. Thank u for the amazin recipe.

    G.

    The Food Canon at: July 20, 2013 at 8:18 PM said...

    Glad you like the recipe for the filling. I think it is about the best I have ever tasted. It doesn't matter what curry powder u used as long as it is fresh and you like the taste,

    Anonymous at: September 16, 2013 at 8:57 PM said...

    Pastor,

    I was researching on the internet for curry puff recipes when I came across Auntie Ruby's curry puff recipe. (My granny who has not been feeling well has requested for them)At the risk of sounding stupid as this is my first attempt, may I ask what margarine I should use? Is it pastry margarine from Phoon Huat, Planta or margarine from the supermarket chiller section? I really hope to be able to succeed in duplicating Auntie Ruby's recipe. Many thanks.

    The Food Canon at: September 16, 2013 at 11:45 PM said...

    Any type of margarine will work. I used Planta

    Anonymous at: September 23, 2013 at 2:31 PM said...

    Pastor,

    Thank you so much.

    Appreciate.

    Anonymous at: May 8, 2014 at 7:04 PM said...

    Thank you for sharing, especially the video link.

    Anonymous at: May 29, 2014 at 10:59 AM said...

    Followed your instruction and make it yesterday.

    It taste wonderful and the pastry is soft and smooth. I had problem with the pastry it tends to break easily when I roll. Could be that I didn't mix the inside and outside pastry properly.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Yeow Hearn at: June 17, 2014 at 4:26 PM said...

    Canon Terence,
    Your curry puff coment that your belvoed Mother, my dear patient Ruby, wanted to make for the nurses are ward 12 Mt E nurses. And I was the one who kept praying and hoping and drooling for them till the Lord called her home.
    But you can always deputise for her. We are still in ward 12.

    Incidentally, my gourmet daughter in Chicago follows your blog very reiligiously and always forward to me your creations, esp the tau u bak.
    Also Dr Andrew Loy, your brother in law, knows that I drool over the mention of your weekly feasts for your father in law's home.

    Will ask my daughter to make the curry puff when I next visit her in Chicago cos the recipe looks too gourmet for me. But I know the outcome will be so very good.

    Still have fond memories of the very cheerful patient I had even though she was very ill then. Indeed she was a great testimony.

    The Food Canon at: June 27, 2014 at 7:08 PM said...

    Thanks Yeow Hearn for dropping a line and taking such good care of Mum when she was there. I will certainly make some curry puff for Ward 12 one day!

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