At home in New York, I was accustomed to ordering Thai food on any given night when I was too tired to cook, rainy evenings, lazy Saturday afternoons, you name it. Curry Puffs and Pad See Ew have developed into serious comfort food for my husband and I. Now, living in Israel, Thai food is hard to come by. In Be’er Sheva there isn’t a single Thai restaurant, and I’ve been known to lug home Thai take-out from a reputable restaurant in Tel Aviv (which is an hour and a half away).
This isn’t the only comfort food that’s hard to come by here. While it can be frustrating, it’s also forced me to be creative and figure out how to make common restaurant dishes on my own. Burritos, Chicken Tikka Masala, and even meatloaf have all made it into my repertoire since moving here. So, this is my attempt at curry puffs, based on memory and guesswork. I figured puff pastry would make a good crust, and coconut milk was a must. While not an exact replica, they’re pretty darn close and regardless are completely addictive. Don’t skip the cucumber dipping sauce. For me, that’s what really made the experience like home.
A few notes on the recipe. I meant to use chicken breast but got turkey instead (darn language barrier and rushing in the supermarket) but it turned out great. Purchasing ground chicken or turkey would cut a step out and works great. I like to pulse the chicken breast in the food processor so I have control over the texture; I want it rough for this recipe, but that’s a personal preference. To make vegetarian, omit the meat. This recipe makes a lot, but they also freeze really well so it’s worth it to put in the effort once and then have a supply for later. Alternately, you can easily halve the recipe. Finally, really taste and adjust the seasoning to your preference. I thought it needed a little sweetness so added sugar, but it’s not necessary. Same for the dipping sauce. Enjoy!
Coconut Curry Puffs
Yield: 40 curry puffs
1 pound chicken or turkey breast, finely chopped or pulsed in food processor (ground chicken or turkey works as well)
2 cups potatoes, peeled, diced and parboiled
½ large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder (I used curry Malaysia, but any will work)
1 tablespoon yellow curry paste
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon dry coriander
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
2 pounds puff pastry (about 1 package), defrosted if frozen
Heat oil in a sauté pan. Add the chicken and onion and cook, stirring often and breaking up chicken with wooden spoon, about 5 minutes or until the chicken is mostly cooked. Add the potatoes, stir to combine, and cook another minute. Stir in the curry powder, then the curry paste, making sure to incorporate it fully here (it may stick in globs slightly). Pour in the coconut milk and simmer (lowering heat if necessary so it’s simmering, not boiling), stirring occasionally, until coconut milk is absorbed. Add the turmeric, coriander, sugar, and mirin and season with salt. Taste and season with any of the spices as necessary. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Using a round cookie or biscuit cutter or large glass (I used a martini glass) cut out 3- to 4-inch circles (curry puffs can be large or small, so it’s up to you). Put a spoonful of filling in the center and fold over to close. Pinch the edges to seal and crimp with a fork (real curry puffs have a cool rope-like seal but I couldn’t get that quite right…).
Heat about 1-inch vegetable or other high-temp oil in a heavy-bottomed pan until it is about 350F, very hot but not smoking (or, if you have a deep fryer, go nuts). Add the curry puffs one at a time; work in batches so as not to crowd the pan. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm in a 200F oven if desired. Serve with cucumber dipping sauce (recipe below).
Note: curry puffs can be frozen. Allow to cool slightly then place on a parchment-lined baking tray and freeze. Once frozen, transfer to an air-tight container or freezer bags. To reheat, take straight from the freezer and bake at 350F for 15 minutes, or until warmed through.
Cucumber Dipping Sauce
Yield: ¼ cup sauce
Combine the mirin, sugar and a pinch of salt in a small pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt and/or sugar if desired. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Stir in cilantro and cucumber. Refrigerate until ready to use. (This recipe seems like a small amount, but makes enough for 20 curry puffs. It is easily multiplied for larger batches).
Testing notes from recipe tester SwoonMySpoon: “This wonderful make-ahead dish has all the comfiness of a dumpling, wrapped around a flavorful and spicy filling. The dipping sauce provides a sweet compliment that cools down the heat making them nothing short of ambrosia. I used a 4-inch round pastry cutter to make the puffs and loved the dough-to-filling ratio; they had a nice balance of comfort and zip. You can easily adjust the spiciness by cutting them smaller and adding less filling. They would also be delicious made vegetarian by replacing the meat with more potato and other vegetables. I served them in small bowls and then spooned the sauce on top to make sure that cucumber was part of every bite. They are absolutely delicious, and I can’t wait to make them again!”