Auntie Ruby's Curry Puffs

Monday, July 16, 2018

Editorial note: This recipe has been updated since it was published in 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.

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.  I will do my best to explain it here. 


Auntie Ruby's Curry Puff's Recipe
Makes 30 curry puffs
1 kg (2.2 lbs) yellow potatoes
5 eggs, hard boiled and each wedged into 8 pieces
300 g (10.5 oz) chicken meat
200 g (7 oz) prawn meat, diced
500 ml (2 cups) vegetable oil for frying potatoes
25 g (1 cup) curry leaves

Curry paste

15 dried chillies, rehydrated in hot water
5 lemongrass bulbs
20 shallots, peeled and diced
5 candlenuts (buah keras)
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsps curry powder
2 tsps salt

Outer pastry 1 kg (2.2 lbs) plain flour
200 g (7 oz) margarine
1 tsp salt
400 ml (1.5 cups) cold water

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

Making the filling
My Mum will cut – not mash – the peeled yellow potatoes. They are cut into ½ cm (0.2 in) cubes.
Then the potato cubes are fried in oil for about 10 minutes. This ensures that the potato cubes will not clump up together. Don’t overcook the potatoes. Set the potatoes aside.

Next, make the curry paste or rempah. Blend or pound the chillies, lemongrass, shallots, and candlenuts into a paste. Heat the oil in a wok, add the paste, salt, curry powder and turmeric powder. Slowly cook it over a low flame for about 10 minutes.

Then add the cubed chicken meat, diced prawn meat and curry leaves. Simmer for 5 minutes before mixing in the fried potatoes.

Making the pastry
Using the two types of pastry dough and following the rolling method will result in a light, thin and flaky pastry.

To make the outer pastry, mix the flour, salt and margarine and knead. Add the water in stages in as you knead it into a dough. Separate into five portions and roll each into a ball.

To make the inner pastry, mix the flour and margarine and knead into a dough. Separate into five portions and roll each into a ball.

Flatten a ball of the outer pastry into a circle with a rolling pin. Put a ball of the inner pastry on it and wrap it with the outer pastry. Repeat with the remaining balls of pastry.

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

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

Making the curry puffs
Remove the pastry from the fridge. Take a ball and flatten it into a long, oval shape. Roll it up tightly by the width and flatten to a long oval shape again. Roll it up once more and flatten for a third time. Then roll it up again. Repeat for remaining balls of dough.
Cut each roll into discs of 3 mm (0.1 in) thickness.
Flatten each disc of pastry to retain a round shape.
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. Hi Terry, Do you remove the curry leaves after cooking the filling? thank you very much for the recipe :)

  2. Does it have to be margarine in the pastry? What about butter? Have you tried using butter?

    1. I am going to try it with ghee and a small amount of butter.

      I am not sure if I am right but some butter has higher water content so the end result might not be that great.

  3. I saw such an amazing and unique recepies at your website.I am impressed an motivated also to write unique recepies.

  4. Hi..while I was searching for the recipe that I've lost, I found your page. I only have a vague memory of the old one but I think they are similiar from the looking at the list of ingredients and the name of Aunt Ruby sounds familiar. Thanks for the recipe. I am gonna copy it down in my recipe book this time. Those who hasn't try it, do try. The recipe is fool proof and the curry puffs taste so delicious. Even better than my family recipe 😅