Going above and beyond for the love of a treasured curry tree

Jan 10, 2020

Of all the questions you ask yourself when packing up your life to move across the country, "What are we going to do about the tree?" isn't likely one of them. But, that's exactly the situation food writer Hugh Merwin found himself in when his partner, Tejal Rao, learned that she'd gotten a job as on the other side of the country, in California. The tree in question was a curry tree, whose leaves are often used in South Asian cooking. (Curry leaves are nothing like curry powder. If you’ve never had them, when toasted they smell amazing, sort of like a cross between roasted peanuts and cinnamon.) Curry trees can be so prized that Tejal's great grandmother actually brought hers with her when she moved from India to Africa, so Hugh and Tejal figured they could handle the cross-country journey with theirs. We invited them in to talk about it.

Tejal Rao is the California dining critic for the New York Times, and Hugh Merwin is a writer. He wrote a terrific story called "How I Loved and Lost a Curry Tree" for Taste. Put fresh curry leaves to work with this recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi for Lemon and Curry Leaf Rice.