I can’t remember the last time I ate an Indian Muslim curry puff (karipap). I see it all the time at the Mamak shop, but the neon orange pastry always looked to be like it was going to cause some serious dyspepsia and clog up my arteries, so I’ve never been tempted to buy one.
Then someone alerted me to this little mom-and-pop shop at the Circuit Road Food Centre which are still making the curry puffs by hand. I was told they were amazing, so I made the trip to see what the fuss is all about.
The shop is run by the affable Encik Ismail Salim and his wife Cik Hamidah Ahmad. They started making the curry puffs back in 2001 when they rented space in a bakery to make the snacks. In the beginning, they were making OEM curry puffs for other stalls, but they eventually opened their own shop and after re-locating several times, they finally settled at Circuit road in 2007.
I was really surprised to see Encik Ismail rolling out the pastry with a small rolling pin when I arrived at the stall at around lunchtime. I couldn’t imagine anyone making this amount of puff pastry with a tiny rolling pin! Even the uncle at Oven Marvel uses an electric dough sheeter to create the laminated pastry!
According to Encik Ismail, hand-rolled pastry is still better than the ones made by machine as the corners of the curry puffs are crisp and tender, unlike the ones which are machine-made which can be tough.
The puff pastry is made with pastry margarine and orange coloring which gives the pastry its ominous color. I am not sure why Indian Muslims like to color their food red, they do it with Sup tulang, mee goreng etc. The orange coloring makes the pastry look as if it is soaked through with the oil from the curry, but this is not really the case. The pastry admittedly is still quite oily when you pick it up, but I have to confess that I couldn’t stop eating it after the first bite! In fact, I didn’t stop eating it until the whole karipap was gone! 4/5
The filling is really tasty, though I can’t say that I actually like the pastry itself. Unlike the usual puff pastry which is nice and buttery with tender, crisp laminated sheets, this pastry is a little tougher and visibly oily. I was told by one of the customers waiting in line that if you buy their frozen ones and bake them at home, they actually turn out less oily!
One of the key ingredients in the curry puff is their chilli sauce which goes really well with the curry puff. It is only mildly spicy, but adds sweetness and extra umami to the karipap! Make sure you ask for it!
Handmade karipap like these are a real gem. It is so good to see that there hawkers who are so passionate about their craft! The karipaps are highly addictive, but I still have reservations about the oily pastry which makes it a gu gu jip pai (once in a long while) treat for me!