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Monday, August 15, 2011

Malaysian Monday #5: Curry Puff, or Epok Epok

I tend to associate food with certain incidents or memories in my life, and this particular food is no different. I still remember the mornings when I would hear this little Malay boy walking across the back alleys on our rows of houses, shouting/singing a tune which till today, I can sing: "kuih kuih, nasi lemak". This phrase was then repeated a million times as he walked from one house to the another. I remember this little Malay boy rather vividly, because I would rush out of the house and hail him to stop. He would then lift the paper towels lining his bright red basket, and uncover the golden crescents of curry puffs, the banana leaf-and-newspaper covered nasi lemak packets, and other assorted kuihs. I still remember he had both kentang and sardin curry puffs, and I would buy an assortment of 5 for RM1. I remember the curry puffs eventually becoming smaller in size, until they became 4 for RM1. Of course, prices today have risen to about 3 for RM1, or worse still, 1 puff for RM0.40.

I remember those times rather fondly, because my mom would chastise us (myself and my brothers) for being lazy, and she would use that little Malay boy as an example. At a really young age (about 10 years or less), he would be wide awake selling his mother's kuih muih as early as 7am in the morning! I used to remember my mom telling us what a hard life that boy leads and how we should be thankful and shouldn't begrudge helping her mop the floor or perform other errands around the house. That lesson is still very much engrained in my memories, and I wonder sometimes, what happened to that little Malay boy? He should be close to 30 years old now. Hmm. 

Curry puffs are also known as epok-epok or karipap pusing or simply karipap among the Malay community, whereas us Chinese typically call it  咖哩角. Another name that I've always heard brandished about it "kari-pok" which is typically said by my less-educated relatives, who cannot pronounce "puff" and hence refer curry as "kari", as a direct Chinese translation, and well, as for pok, it's a bastardized English for puff I guess heh. 

I love curry puffs, but the ones I love more, and also the ones I'll be featuring today, are actually the 千层咖哩角, or many layered curry puff, which typically cost more than the usual normal curry puff. This has been on my bookmarked list of recipes since forever, but I decided that this month was a good time for me to attempt it, because the theme of this month's Aspiring Bakers #10 is pie/tarts, which includes puff pastry. It might not strike some of you that this oil and water dough combination is our very own Asian/Chinese form of puff pastry! So many other Chinese treats make use of this quintessential oil and water dough - Shanghainese moon cakes and char siew sous are some that come to mind. 

Anyway, since this was a spur of the moment decision, I didn't have my camera at home in Malaysia with me (I can only deep fry things in Malaysia, remember?) and I'll have to direct those who are hoping for step-by-step photos to several outstanding bloggers whose posts I referred to in the process of making these puffs. Florence was the master I first turned to, and her instructions and step-by-step tutorial is perfect! For those who can read Chinese, Jane was another person I turned to - in fact, she has made them so many times in so many variations on her blog that she's a master of them already! Finally, another step-by-step I referred to is none other than the host for MMM, Suresh!

Curry Puffs
Loosely adapted from Florence's recipe 
Makes 16 medium sized curry puffs 

For the pastry
Oil Dough
150 g   all-purpose flour
40 g     butter
35 g     shortening

Water Dough
205 g   all-purpose flour
1 tsp     vinegar
50 g     shortening
30 g     sugar
95 g     water

For the vegetarian curried potato filling
3 small potatoes
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 tbl garam masala
1 tbl chicken curry powder
Some curry leaves

  1. For the filling, par boil the potatoes. Peel and cube them into small pieces. Stir fry the onions until fragrant and add in the garlic followed by the cubed potatoes. Add in the seasoning and cook for about 1-2 minutes, or until the potato softens to your preference. Leave aside to cool until room temperature. 
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the water dough. In a bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Add in the shortening and mix well with the dry ingredients. Add in the vinegar followed by the water and knead until you get a soft and pliable dough. It should take you about 10 minutes or less. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and leave it to rest for 30 minutes while you prepare the oil dough. 
  3. For the oil dough, in the same bowl, add shortening to the flour and mix well. Next, add in the cubed butter and mix everything well until you can compact everything into a ball. 
  4. Divide the water dough into 2 pieces of approximately 170-180g each, and divide the oil dough into 2 pieces of approximately 75-85g each. Working on one piece each of oil dough and water dough and wrap the other 2 pieces of dough separately in cling wrap to prevent them from drying out. 
  5. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the water dough until it is big enough to enclose the oil dough. Seal the oil dough within the water dough. With the sealed seam facing upwards, roll the dough into a rectangular sheet of approximately 1cm in thickness. Roll the rectangular sheet up from the shorter side, as if rolling up a swiss roll. You should get a horizontal scroll. Now, turn this horizontal scroll 90 degrees until it is vertical. Roll this out until you get another thin rectangular sheet of about 1cm in thickness. Again, roll the sheet up from the shorter end until you get a swiss roll. Let the dough rest for about 15 minutes before cutting the 'swiss roll' up into 10 portions. For each portion, you should be able to see the swirling of the water and oil dough. 
  6. To fill and shape the curry puff, flatten the disc using a rolling pin until you get a rough circle big enough to place your filling. Place about 1-2 tablespoons of filling in the centre and fold the circle into two. You should get a rough semicircle. Press the edges of the dough together and beginning from the bottom, pinch the edge of the puff with your thumb before bringing it upwards to the front. Repeat the process of pleating until the entire semi-circle is sealed.  
  7. Repeat the same process for the remaining pieces of dough. 
  8. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the other 2 pieces of dough.
  9. Heat up a wok with at least 2 inches of oil. Deep fry the puffs on medium heat until they turn golden brown. Before removing the puffs from the oil, be sure to turn up the heat to medium-high to make sure that the oil does not leach inside the puffs. 
  10. Drain on paper towels and cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. 

Janine's jots: 
  • Taste: For the filling, be sure to add more spices and flavor than you normally will, because the filling needs to be really flavorful. I loved how the curry leaves gave the filling that extra punch - YUM! 
  • Texture: I absolutely love the textural layers on the outside which are so very crisp after frying. You are then greeted with a hot, spicy potato filling which is almost mushy, with some 'bite' from other bits of potato which I purposely left un-mushy. 
  • Serving size: I divided the dough into half and made 10 curry puffs out of a half portion of dough because I wanted smaller puffs and more crispy surface area ;p I think 12 is perhaps the smallest you can go because otherwise there is not enough dough to wrap enough filling for 3 small bites of a small curry puff. 
  • Modifications: You can choose to add chicken, carrots or peas or even hardboiled eggs into the filling - any variation including sardines is fine! Just make sure to make the filling extra tasty so that it will taste normal after frying. Also for the oil dough, I will probably try using more butter and less shortening the next time because I felt that the dough was slightly too crumbly for my preference. 
  • Storage: The curry puffs taste best on the day they are fried, but they keep well at room temperature for up to 3 days if stored in an air-tight container, and briefly reheated before consumption. You can also keep them in the fridge for up to a week, but the curry puff did not crisp up well in the toaster after that period of time. 
  • Would I make this again?: Although it was insanely delicious and rewarding to eat my own curry puffs, I'm definitely staying away from curry puffs for a while - I consumed more than 4 curry puffs within 2 days and looking at the huge amount oil that I used to fry them gives me the heebies jeebies. SO MUCH OIL and fats going to my hips!
  • Notes on frying: Do do make sure that you have enough oil in the wok. I had too little oil in the wok, and my heat was cranked up a little too high, which resulted in my first batch of puffs turning golden brown too quickly, and the inside layer of the puffs was not cooked through. 


Now that I know how much work goes into making a single curry puff, I'll never grouse paying RM1 for the large curry puff (with half an egg) I always buy from the makcik near my house! I'll be sending this onto Muhibbah Malaysia Monday hosted by Shaz of Test With Skewer and Suresh of 3 Hungry Tummies :]


WendyinKK said...

When I was in Primary 1, it was only for 10 sen, kekeke.
BTW, I think epok-epok is the type of puff with vegetable fillings instead of potatoes or sardines.

shaz said...

Nicely done :) curry puffs are such nostalgic food..

Anonymous said...

nice job. love the texture on the skin. reminds me of teochew mooncake!

sotong said...

wow! love those layers!

Unknown said...

Your curry puff is perfectly done! Nice curls. Yummy!

kitchen flavours said...

It all sounds too familiar!! Your karipap looks really good! Absolutely love karipap, a definite "comfort kueh"! :)

eileen said...

Well done!

lena said...

these must be real flaky!somehow when you mentioned that' karipok', it reminds me of those karipok hairstyles, the john travolta's hairstyle in the 70s!

Mel said...

Wow, your curry puffs looks so amazingly beautiful done! Hope I can achieve like what you did on this puffs.

Janine said...

@wendy: hehe i never had 10sen curry puffs! oh thanks for that info, I never knew there was a difference!

@shaz and sotong: thanks :)

@alan: yeah it uses the same pastry!

@vivian: the curls were made by my mom - mine were horrible :S

@eileen and kitchen flavors: thanks!

@lena: teehee it was back in fashion a year or two ago - the female "pouf"!

Sneh | Cook Republic said...

Thanks for stopping by the blog Janine. You have a lovely blog and I am already bookmarking some recipes to try. Curry Puff!! Gosh, it has been so long since I had them. Used to have them all the time when I was living in Singapore. Your pictures are great!

Sara said...

Lovely! These are beautiful, and look really delicious, too! :)

Unknown said...

waaa these are so complicated to make! i cant imagine myself making it, i'll just go to your place with empty plates heheheh

3 hungry tummies said...

They look fabulous, good work!

myFudo said...

Your curry puff looks great. Wish mine turns out good like yours. Love the photos.

Rene said...

The swirls look so attractive! I love curry puffs and used to look forward to eating it piping hot as an after school snack. Nice work and thanks for sharing the recipe.

Sokehah cheah said...

Your spiral curry puffs look very tempting. A job well done!

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

I'm in love with these puffs immediately! I love curry and puffs, but never thought of combining into one food! How genius! I love your pictures...and each one of them is killing me here... looks so delicious!

Umm Mymoonah said...

I have been eyeing this recipe for a long time now, you have tempted me again.

shaz said...

Argh, I'm reading this at night and suddenly craving curry puffs with no way of getting any :) Beautiful layering, they look fantastic.

MaryMoh said...

Oooh...I need a few of these!! With a cup of tea, I will be smiling the whole day :D I love the spiral pastry but so much work! Hope you have a wonderful day! Have lots of fun cooking and baking! MaryMoh at

Janine said...

Thanks you guys for all the sweet comments! You made my day :]

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