Sunday, April 26, 2009

Curry Puffs, Empanada Style

We were planning a potluck up by the house and I wanted to make something that reminded me of home, so I went for a traditional Singaporean goody -- something I made with Ah-Mah while I was at home the past few months.

Curry Puffs are traditionally deep fried and filled with delicious, thick curry and sometimes half of a hardboiled egg. The Curry Puff could be seen as similar to a samosa, though its flavors are different and Curry Puffs seem to usually have meat while it seems the reverse is true for its South Asian cousin.

The recipe for the dough was adapted from an empanada dough recipe in Gourmet magazine -- a double batch turned out to be perfect for the amount of filling I made.

Everything can be made ahead and assembled as the whim strikes.

Curry Puffs, Empanada Style

Makes 30.

1 lb potatoes, diced finely into 1/8'' cubes
1/2 lb your choice of ground meat... I use turkey and it's yummy
1/2 lbs onions, minced
2 tbsp curry
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
4 tbsp of oil of your choice (optional, see instructions)
1/4 cup water (optional, see instructions)

4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
2 sticks (1 cup) frozen unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large eggs
2/3 cup ice water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 egg, to brush on

The filling's easier to work with when it's cooler, so it's best to do it at least a little while in advance (I usually do it the day before and refrigerate). The dough needs to rest at least an hour, but it can also be frozen and used later if that's more convenient for you.

For the filling, the oil you use will depend on the meat you're using. If you're using a highly fatty meat like some ground pork, you'll want to fry the pork first for 4-5 minutes, until almost cooked and drain off all but 2 tbsp of grease. Then add the onions and potatoes and fry until done.

If you're using ground turkey which is much leaner (but still has great flavor) heat 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet on medium-high until a drop of water sizzles in the pan. Throw in your onions and fry for 3 minutes, until they start to become translucent. Add in your ground turkey. If the turkey starts to stick, add a little more oil. Stir well, breaking up the chunks of ground meat.

When the meat is almost cooked (about 5 minutes) add in the potatoes and stir well. Add your spices and stir to mix thoroughly. Again, if you're using turkey, the mixture may be pretty dry and may start to stick. I add the 1/2 cup of water here to help it cook and to keep it from sticking.

Cook 8-12 minutes,; stirring every so often, until potatoes are soft. Let cool.

For the dough: Add flour and salt into a large bowl. Use your fingertips to rub in butter lumps until the mixture looks like coarse meal (little pea/pebbly sized pieces of flour/butter). When you're rubbing, the butter will kind of squish flat in your fingers. That's good. That's what we mean by rubbing. Those thin squished flour/butter finger pancakes will make for a nice uniform flaky dough. Yum.

Once that's done, whisk together eggs, water, and vinegar in a bowl. Add this into your flour mixture with a spoon or spatula until it just comes together into a shaggy mass. It's okay if some of the flour is still in your bowl.

Pour out your mixture onto a floured surface and squeeze it together in a rectangular block (dimension's not too important, but do make sure the dough comes together. Some cracks are fine). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap -- you can use the wrap to help you compress the dough into a nice shape. Chill for at least an hour.

To assemble: I really should have taken pictures of this process. Next time, I promise! For now, I'll describe as best I can.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Break your dough into 4 parts. Keep the parts you're not using in the refrigerator until you're ready for them. Flour your area well. Flour your rolling pin (or wine bottle!). Set out a little pan or cup of water for yourself to use for sealing your pastries.

Roll out your dough in a rectangle to 1/8 to 1/4'' thick -- about half the thickness of a National Geographic? This is really a personal preference thing, but if you're a beginner, err on the side of too thick because then the pastry will be easier to work with.

If the dough breaks apart while you're rolling, don't fret. Just massage it into a ball and try again. As the dough becomes warmer and the butter melts, it will be easier to roll and work with. Just watch out for too much squeezing and handling, there's the danger of the dough becoming tough and elasticky which leads to funny-shaped curry puffs.

Once you've rolled out your dough, find a cup or a round tupperware or something with a relatively sharp edge and a diameter of at least 4 inches. Cut out as many circles as you can from your dough.

Take one circle in the palm or your weaker hand (my left). Use the other hand to spoon 1 heaping tbsp of filling into the center of the circle. Dip the tip of a finger into the water and use it to wet one half of the outer edge of the circle. Fold the circle in half with the filling in the middle. Squeeze the outside edge shut -- about 1/4'' edge should be left around the semicircle. Make sure it's tightly sealed. These look a lot prettier when they aren't oozing out filling. To make the edge a little fancier, you can use a fork to crimp the edges or use your fingers to make a twisted crimp. To do that, once you've sealed the thing shut, pinch one corner with your thumb and forefinger and pull it towards you. Take the next section above it and do the same thing and so on until you've worked your way around the pastry.

Lay them out as you go on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or well-greased). Repeat until you're done. Brush the tops with a beaten egg (your fingers work fine if you have no pastry brush).

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, or until golden yellow on top.


  1. I am a huge fan of samosas, and I am sure there is room in my heart--and stomach--for these guys, too. I love savory fillings in pastry. Mmmm:)

  2. Oh! Glad you like the idea -- let me know if you try it and it works out well for you!