International cooking for the youthful malcontent.

Malaysian Meat Curry Powder

Meat Curry Powder

Malaysian Meat Curry Powder

Once every year or two, I make an attempt at curry puffs from-scratch. So far, no luck, as they’ve always lacked the rich flavour and crisp pastry covering. I can excuse the pastry because the dough I did end up using was tasty in it’s own way, but bland filling is absolutely unacceptable. A good curry puff is delicious on it’s own, and doesn’t require smothering in chili sauce (like mine did). So, to remedy this, I am truly starting from scratch this time, by making my own curry powder to season to filling.

The curry powder I had been using was a recommended brand and was probably fine for the job, but it was a large package of ground powder and probably lost most of it’s flavour over time, thereby rendering it’s effect on the meat unnoticeable. Blech.

Using this recipe, you can get the freshest possible spice blend, and believe me, it’s worth it. I splashed a few tsps of this powder into my Christmas dinner stuffing and the flavour was remarkable. I am anxious to begin my curry puff attempt now, as I predict much improved results. Expect a curry puff recipe here soon!

You will need a way to grind whole spices for this to work. I just got one of these for Christmas so I’m good to go (thanks, Anuja!). A mortar and pestle will work fine here, as well, but you will need something to grind whole spices since we’re going to toast them first (which you can’t really do with ground spices).

Ingredients (makes about 1 cup):

  • 6 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 3 tbsp fenugreek seeds (not leaves)
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp jasmine rice
  • 1 tsp green cardamom seeds (see below)
  • 1 3-inch stick of cinnamon
  • 5 whole dried chili peppers, stems and seeds removed (see below)
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 5 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne chili powder

What you will need: stainless steel non-stick frying pan, your favourite grinding tool, measuring spoons, bowl, and a medium-sized jar with a tight lid


  1. First, measure/count into the bowl all the whole spices except the dried chilies and the cardamon seeds. Also remember to omit the ground turmeric and chili powder, as these will be added last, after the other spices have been ground.
  2. For the cardmom seeds, you want to break open green cardamom pods. To get a tsp of the seeds, you may have to crack open 6-8 pods. Those little seeds can skitter off the counter pretty easily too. So, crack open the pod (one whack in a mortar and pestle is usually enough to tear the shell off. Discard the shells and keep the tiny black seeds.
  3. For the chilis, we’ll do a similar thing – give them a smash in the mortar and pestle and the outer skins will break and the seeds will pour out. In this case though, all we want is the dried outer skin of the pepper, not the seeds. The seeds are pure heat, the dried pepper will give us a milder heat and pepper flavour. Throw out the stems too. Also, assuming you’re not using rubber gloves (I never do) remember not to touch your eyes after handling these. They’re not as dangerous as fresh chilies, but you could still hurt yourself if dried pepper oils get on your hands and into your eyes (or into any small cuts on your fingers, etc)
  4. Now we’ve got all the whole spices in one bowl. We’re ready to roast them. Turn a burner on to medium-low heat (about 3 on my stove) and start heating up the frying pan. We’re dry-roasting these spices so there’s no need for adding oil or anything. Nothing will stick, promise.
  5. When the pan is about low heat (warm but not done heating up to medium-low) add all the whole spices. The only thing you’re not throwing in here is the cayenne and the turmeric.
  6. We’re going to roast the spices for about 5 minutes. This is not an exact number. What we’re looking for is the smell. When the spices are heated, they will begin to release their fragrances. Watch the coriander seeds – they will get browned as they cook and you want to take the spices off the heat before they get black/burned. Also remember to stir/flip the spices so they get cooked evenly. The smell should get fairly strong as they get lightly browned. If the spices start to burn you will notice a distinct burning smell. If this happens, you should start over, as the spices will taste awful at this point. Unless you like food that tastes burnt. in which case, proceed to the next step.
  7. Pour the spices off the frying pan and into the bowl. Lete them sit for 15 minutes or so until they’re mostly cooled.
  8. Grind your spices.
  9. Add the cayenne and turmeric to the ground whole spices.
  10. Pour it all into the jar, put the lid on and give it a few shakes. You’re done.
  11. Stick your nose over the jar and sniff lightly. Holy shit, that smells good.

This is a meat curry powder so presumably you’re going to use it with meat (beef, lamb, etc) but like I mentioned earlier – you can use it to add spice to all sorts of things. I tossed it in with traditional turkey stuffing (bread, celery, onions, butter, chicken stock, sage, etc) and it was rather tasty. You could also use it as a BBQ dry rub for grilled meats.


One response

  1. That spice/nut grinder, although technically a present for you, also works out greatly to my benefit!
    I mean… you’re welcome.

    January 4, 2010 at 4:30 pm

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