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.
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.
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.
Auntie Ruby's Curry Puff's Recipe
Preparing the filling
Making the paste
15 pieces dried chillies
5 stalks lemon grass
5 buah keras (candlenuts)
1/2 thumb yellow ginger
- Soak the dried chillies in hot water and blend.
- Use and dice the lower white part of the lemon grass
- 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
1/2 bowl or 100 ml water
- Dice the large onions.
- Cut chicken and prawns into small pieces/ cubes.
- Add curry powder into the water and mix.
- 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
- Remove potatoes and use the oil to fry the paste for about 15 minutes in low heat.
- 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.
- 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
- Mix, knead flour. Add the water bit by bit as you knead.
- Separate into 5 balls
Curry puff pastry (inside)
500 g plain flour
- Mix, knead flour
- Separate into 5 balls
Making the curry puff (Check the visuals below)
- Flatten outside pastry
- Wrap around inside pastry ball
- Flatten both
- Roll up tightly and flatten - 3 times
- Cut roll into 3 mm width
- Flatten individual pastry into rounds to place ingredients
- Close pastry over ingredients and create the side "flower".
- Ready for deep frying
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 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.
- The outer layer pastry - kneaded (divide into 3 portions, not in pic)
- The inside pastry - divide into 3 balls
- Put one inside pastry ball into a portion of the outside pastry portion which has been flattened.
Flatten with roller.
- Roll up, flatten etc for 3 times.
- Flatten gently with a roller across the roll
- The log which looked like a swiss roll is formed.
- 3-mm slices
- Flatten pastry into a round
- Put in the filling.
- Pull, press and fold to form the side pattern
|Into the oil bath! Small to medium flame. Gentle bubbling |
till light golden brown