Thursday, July 12, 2012

Spiral Curry Puff

Some mornings I would wake up feeling fully energized, all ready to take on the baking world come what may! And what would seem as a really promising start to the day would often end up with me crashing onto the sofa, browsing recipe books and bookmarking more and more recipes and simply adding on to my endless list before the hours pass by with me NOT doing any baking at all. I've bookmarked so many types of local Chinese pastries that I have been wanting to make for a long, long time, but each time I read about the process of making them, I get lazy. I'll be thinking about which pastry to try first, whether this or that, whichever is easier perhaps, and that's about all that I do, most of the times.

The wise and enlightening Ajahn Brahm, an Australia-based English monk, shared a story in his book 'opening the doors to your heart' that one day many years ago as a young novice monk in north Thailand, he and his fellow young monks were asked by senior monks to move a huge mound of earth from one ground site to another in the temple grounds. After shoveling for a few days, the deputy chief monk had come to inspect and asked them to move the earth to another spot instead. And so they did, although not without some complains. When the chief monk returned from his trip, he told the junior monks that the earth was at the wrong site and that he wanted all the earth moved back to its original spot. This infuriated and annoyed Ajahn Brahm even more than the second time when they were asked to move the earth. He thought, can't those senior monks decide once and for all and agree? Aren't monks supposed to be organised?? He was really angry (since he was a novice monk who hasn't fully cultivated his wisdom yet) as he thought about the long suffering few more days, having to shovel with aching muscles. One of his fellow monks, noticing his continuous grumblings, then came over and said to him "your trouble is you think too much!". It then dawned upon him that his monk friend was absolutely right! The more he thought about the work, the heavier his shovel felt. From then on, he learned his lesson that thinking about moving the earth was the hardest part, moving it was easy. To this day, he suspected that the senior monks had planned it as it was to impart a wisdom to the young monks through their own experience. I love this story! And if I had read it sooner, I would have attempted more pastries! I would have thought less of the pastry-making process and just get to doing it. But, better late than never! So finally yesterday, I used this priceless lesson that the hardest part of anything is thinking about it, and I got round to stop thinking and start doing. So I made one of my many bookmarked pastry recipes, spiral curry puff. And true enough, the doing part is, really not that hard at all!

I made the doughs here based on a recipe in "delicacies of china town' book, authored by a lady but unfortunately I don't know her name as it was written in Chinese characters. Luckily the recipes are in dual languages. There are several versions for the dough recipes as I had seen online and in some blogs,  but essentially, the concept is similar to french puff pastry where dough and fat are inter-layered to get crispy light flaky pastry. The spiral effect here is achieved by rolling the two types of doughs (water and oil doughs) into a rectangle and rolling it up into swiss roll. Step-by step explanation is as below.

First up, prepare the filling as below. It can be made days or weeks ahead. Freeze it in a tight lid container and thaw completely before making the puffs.

(if you had read this filling recipe earlier and again now on 140712, you'll noticed that i've made changes here. previous measurement was for a portion of the dough only and wouldn't be enough if you follow the full dough measurement below. please refer to this new filling measurement. this is an estimation and depending on how thick/large your dough wrapper is, you might get a little leftover filling or dough)

200 g chicken meat, cut into small cubes
2 big onion, diced/chopped small
1.2 kg potatoes, cut into small cubes
4 tbsps curry powder, mixed with 5 tbsps water to make a paste
1 tbsp chili powder
A bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
750 ml water

Heat 3 tbsps oil in a wok. Saute onions until fragrant, then add in the chicken cubes. Fry for a minute, then add in curry paste and further fry for a minute. Add in the potatoes, coriander, water and salt and simmer until the gravy is absorbed and the potatoes has softened. Leave to cool completely. 

Now, with the filling all ready, here are the recipes for the two types of dough.

Water dough:
300 g plain flour
120 g margarine
150 ml ice water

Mix water dough ingredients and knead to form a dough. Cover with kitchen towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Oil dough:
200 g plain flour
120 g vegetable shortening
1/4 tsp salt

Mix oil dough ingredients and knead to form a dough. If the dough is too soft, add a tablespoon of flour.

With both doughs ready, here are the steps to achieving deliciously light, flaky and crispy spiral puffs. The amount here will yield about two dozens medium-sized puffs.

1. Water dough on the left and oil dough on the right.

2. Flatten the water dough and place the oil dough in the center of the water dough.

3. Enclose the oil dough by fully wrapping it with the water dough. Pinch the top part together to seal it off.

4. Flatten the combined dough into a rectangle shape. If there is any air trapped inside, simply make a small tear to release the air and seal it back.

5. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle with thickness of around 4 mm. The thinner the better.

6. Roll it up closely into a swiss roll starting from the furthest end rolling in towards you. Dough is soft, so do use both hands to control from both ends of the dough when rolling.

7. You'll get a long swiss roll like this.

8. Then, gently lift the rolled up dough and turn it vertically like this.

9. Next, roll it out sideways and further adjust by rolling up and down until you get a thin large rectangle once again, just like in step 5. After this, repeat steps 6 & 7 to obtain a swiss roll once more. Then, leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

10. Cut up the swiss roll dough into 1 inch-thick pieces. With cut side facing up, roll each piece into a round wrapper.

11. The circular pattern of water and oil dough is visible here.

12. Place a big spoonful of the filling on the center of the wrapper.

13. Fold the wrapper over in half to meet the opposite side, then press the edges together to seal.

14. Pleat the edges. Flatten one part and pull it out a little bit.

15. Then, use your index finger to push in the dough forward. Repeat all round the edges. Don't worry if your pleating is less than perfect. It's the imperfection of home made that actually makes it perfect.

16. Fry the puffs in an electric deep fryer or in a wok (on medium fire) with enough oil to cover the puffs at least half way up. Turn over the puffs to brown both sides evenly. Dish and drain on kitchen towel. Extra un-fried puffs can be frozen and fried straight from the freezer whenever the need arises.   


  1. So this is a monk inspired chinese cookbook inspired recipe! :D First off, Jocelyn it looks amazing and is so tempting my tummy is grumbling. It sure looks like a lot of work, well done!

    Second, your story is so true and such good advise. You sound so much like me, now I have to get up from this computer and start on that long list I've been making of things to do.

  2. Hi Lyndsey, haha I guess you could say that sometimes we need something to kick us in the butt then we'll get up & do it. This puff looks like there's a lot of work, but it's actually pretty easy to do. cheers!

  3. I LOVE these spiral curry puffs. Yours look so delicious & appetizing! Would love to try this some time. Looks so good! :)

  4. Hmm..a wise story to share and hold nothing but the truth..great looking spiral puffs..nampak crispy. Sure sedap.

  5. So crisp and delicious! I wouldn't be able to stop eating just one!

  6. Hello Nyonya, wow! That is a really beautiful curry puff. I have not seen one so beautiful before too.
    Can see you made it with that special ingredient called, 'sayang', ha ha.
    And the colours really terrific!
    I think 5 pieces will do me fine. Looks soooooo good!
    Nyonya, women like you can make bachelors lose their bachelor's degree, ha ha ha.
    Have a nice day.

  7. They look fantastic and I bet they taste amazing. The story is very interesting. Nyonya you have such a nice blog, I love your step by step instructions and photos. Thank you for sharing.

  8. When are you making this again? Let me know, ya? I'll bring the rest of the gang, just make more! hehehe!

  9. Last time my maid used to make this curry puff for me and my friends every sunday, but I have lost the recipe. I can now try with your recipe. Good! :)

  10. I love spiral curry puff but they can be so time consuming to make. I guess I'll just have to do it ;) Yours look fantastic!

  11. Has anyone tried baking these?

  12. i tried it, but the pastry open up when i fry the puff. any advice? i used sunflower oil for the water dough and vegetable shortening for the oil dough.

  13. just an added note, the pastry splits from the spiral. not the edging. although the pastry is super soft n fluffy like crossiant

  14. hi baking fun, maybe you can try rolling the dough as tightly as possible, before slicing and rolling again to mould the puff.