Murraya koenigii – Curry leaf tree
The Murraya koenigii is a tropical to sub-tropical tree in the family Rutaceae and is native to Asia, including Vietnam. In Vietnamese language, it is called lá cà ri (curry leaf), or simply cà ri (curry). However, most Vietnamese do not know about this tree. Only in Ninh Thuận province, the plant is more popular where it is called xào dông or xào giông. Recently, the curry tree has been grown as an ornamental plant because it has beautiful and colorful fruits, but it is alse used as a medicinal plant, and a spice plant.
- Family: Rutaceae
- Genus: Murraya
- Bionominal name: Murraya koenigii
- English name: curry leaf tree
- Vietnamese name: cà ri, chùm hôi trắng, xào dông, xào giông
Murraya koenigii is adaptive to the dry and arid climate of Ninh Thuận province, and they grow a lot in the sand dunes of Hoa Thuy and Thanh Tin which are hot and dry places. This tree is easy to cultivate and it can tolerate frost and drought very well. It can be grown by seeds or by vegetative propagation.
The young shoots of the plant are used as a spice in salads, and stir-fries especially with butterfly lizard meat (Leiolepis belliana, Vietnamese: dông or dông cát). Leiolepis belliana is a widespread lizard species native to Asia. In Ninh Thuận, butterfly lizards are even farm-raised for meat, and the butterfly lizard salad, grill, or stir fry dishes must include the curry leaves. Butterfly lizard egg salad with curry leaves is probably the most unique yet scary dish in the region. Such a dish is a local delicacy “drinking food” and can be found in many restaurants in Phan Rang, the capital city of Ninh Thuận.
Furthermore, the curry leaves are used as a kind of spice because they have a very special scent. Salted chili peppers with ground curry leaves is a special condiment, and is often used for grilled chicken dish. Curry leaves or xào dông leaves can also be paired with lamb (or mutton) and goat meat. Much less common combination is bee larva and curry leaves.
In Mekong Delta, people may also braise frog legs with curry leaves, as an alternative to lolot leaves (Piper lolot) or lá cách leaves (Premna integrifolia).