Auntie Ruby's Curry Puff

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Your mum or grandma must have made 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 were 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.

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 the masses 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 many more rounds to perfect it.

In fact the first batch I made tasted so different that my dear wife 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 handwritten 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 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. 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.

All this is done in the wok. 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 (watery and oily) will introduce flakiness in the crust. As air is trapped between the layers, there will be multiple layers of pastry making for a crunchier and lighter bite. There are different ways to roll out and prepare the dough. It can be hard to show you exactly how my Mum did it but once you understand what is being achieved here, you will get confident and find different ways to roll it out.  


Auntie Ruby's Curry Puff's Recipe
To make 60 curry puffs

2 kg yellow potatoes
10 eggs, hard boiled and each wedged into 8 pieces
500 g chicken meat
300 g prawn meat, diced
4 large white onions (diced)
50 g (2 cups) curry leaves

Making the paste
15 pieces dried chillies
5 stalks lemon grass (white bulb)
20 shallots
5 buah keras (candlenuts)
1/2 thumb yellow ginger

1. Soak the dried chillies in hot water and blend.
2. Dice the lower white part of the lemon grass
3. Blend all into a paste

Preparing the filling
500g boneless chicken meat
200 g prawn meat
2 kg yellow potato
4 large onions 
2 tsp slat
3 tsp sugar
1 tbsp curry power
A cup of water

500 ml (2 cups) vegetable oil for frying potatoes
  1. Dice the large onions. 
  2. Cut chicken and prawns into small pieces/cubes. 
  3. Peel and cut the potatoes into small cubes of about 1/2 cm square and fry in oil in medium heat for about 10 minutes 
  4. Remove potatoes and use some of the oil to fry the paste for about 10 minutes in low heat. 
  5. Add chicken, prawns, onions, curry powder, salt, sugar,   Fry for another 5 minutes. Towards the end, add the potatoes and stir/mix for another 5 minutes. Add some water along the way to moisturise the filing. The filling is done. 
  6. Hard boil the eggs and cut into segments. 
Making the Pastry
Using the two types of pastry dough and following the rolling method will result in a light, thin and flaky pastry.

Inner pastry 
500 g (1.1 lbs) plain flour
300 g (10.5 oz) margarine

Outer pastry 
1 kg (2.2 lbs) plain flour
200g margarine
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
400 ml (1.5 cups) cold water

To make the inner pastry, mix the flour and margarine and knead into a dough. You will know the dough is done when it does not stick to your hand. Separate into five portions and roll each into a ball.

To make the outer or watery pastry, combine the margarine and flour and add the water in stages in as you knead it into a dough. Separate into five portions and roll each into a ball.

Flatten a ball of the outer pastry with a rolling pin. Press a piece of the inner pastry on it, using your fingers to press it on top of the outer pastry. Wrap it with the outer pastry into a ball. Repeat with the remaining balls of pastry.

Leave the balls of pastry to rest for about 1 hour. This will make for easier shaping of the pastry later.

Note that this pastry can be prepared beforehand and kept in the fridge or freezer till needed.

Making the curry puffs
Take a piece of the pastry and flatten it with the rolling pin. Fold once, turn over and flatten it again. Then dab a bit of water on it and slowly roll it into a “swiss-roll shape”.

Cut the roll at about an inch width (or weight of 25-30g).

Flatten the cut pieces into an oval shape. Roll it up by the width and flatten to an oval shape again.

Palm the oval pastry. Spoon about one heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of the pastry. Add a wedge of hard boiled egg. Fold the pastry over to make a semicircle.

Seal the curved edge of the curry puff. Start at one end of the semicircle, using your thumb and finger to twist the edge to make a crinkle. Continue twisting along the edge till you reach the other end of the semicircle. You should have sealed the curry puff with a rope-like series of crinkles.

Repeat for the remaining pastry and filling. The curry puffs are now ready for deep frying.

You may freeze the curry puffs at this stage if you are preparing ahead. Place the curry puffs on plastic sheets or cling film with a space between each piece. Place in the freezer.

Deep fry immediately after removing the curry puffs from the freezer. Don’t thaw. Fry them in batches over low heat. The oil must be gently bubbling. Remove them when they are light brown.

Let the curry puffs cool down but they are best eaten when they are warm. If you are serving them later, keep them in a warmer.

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  1. 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!

  2. Do you use chicken breast for the filling?

  3. 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

  4. looks very good thanks for sharing

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

  6. 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.

  7. Thanks for sharing this Curry Puff's recipe

  8. 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.


  9. 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,

  10. 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.

  11. Any type of margarine will work. I used Planta

  12. Pastor,

    Thank you so much.


  13. Thank you for sharing, especially the video link.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. Hi, thank you so much for sharing these traditional family recipe ( it's so hard to find good tasting home recipe that hasn't been dulled down for the masses)
    A few questions though, I was just wondering at what point the curry leaves are used? And do you have any suggestions on a way to simplify the dough without compromising taste? And lastly how many puffs will this recipe yield?

  18. Hi SIv
    Add the curry leaves into the filling before you add the filling into the pastry. When you deep fry- the leaves will release the aroma.
    As for the dough, you can simplify to compromise on its flakiness. If so, just use one type of dough, i.e add everything into just one lump of dough and work the puffs' pastry from there. Taste is pretty much the same.

  19. Singapore Top Local famous Delicacy ! There is 10 Best Curry Puff in Singapore. Anyone ever tried Riches Curry Puff at Middle Road, opposite Guan Yin Temple ? That is the best curry puff I ever had. Large and filling .Now already move to west area .Blk 349 Jurong East Ave1 #01-1201.

    Now Some Curry Puff price is getting higher and higher because of raw material cost and Rental price is high.

    1) Richie's Curry Puff 6345 5225 , 9881 3552 Best Curry Puff in SG, Must Try !
    Blk349 Jurong East Ave 1 #01-1201 (24 hrs) Price $1.20
    Blk498 Jurong West St41 #01-444 (24 hrs) Price $1.20
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    Blk 137 Potong Pasir Ave3 #01- 144 Price $1.20

    3) "Nyonya Curry Puff Cafe ( Peranakan Café ) * 6471 2841* , ** 8533 3335 **
    Curry Puff King in Singapore !! Must Try ! Biggest Puff in Singapore !
    Blk 274 Bukit Batok East Ave4 # 01-106 (24 hrs) Price $1.20

    4) Wang Wang Curry Puff 9090 7009
    Old Airport Road Food Centre #01-126, Singapore 390019 (11am - 11pm) Price $1.20
    Best Cutie Curry Puff in Singapore Must Try !

    5) 1A Curry Puff 6441 4363 * 6446 3873 * Price $1.80
    391 Orchard Road #B2-07-3-3 Singapore 238873 ( 11am-10pm )
    Best Curry Puff, Must Try !

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    7) Old Chang Kee Curry Puff * 6465 1405 * Price $1.50
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    11 Tanjong Katong Road #B1-29 10am - 10 pm Best Curry Puff, Must Try !

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    10) 24 Hours Curry Puff Catering & Food Delivery 94812907 Price $1.20
    Best Curry Puff, Must Try ! 84 Redhill lane .

    WRITER: Alice Chen
    Singapore Top Local

  20. Hi Pastor, this recipe sounds delicious. The Method includes adding curry powder to water, but in the ingredients list, there is no curry powder and water listed. Could you help?

  21. I have corrected and adjusted to make it clearer.