Curry puff



A curry puff is a deep-fried or baked, semi-circular pastry filled with curried fillings.1 The origins of this snack are uncertain and attributed variously to the influences of the British Cornish pasty, the Portuguese empanada and the Indian samosa.2

Description
The curry puff pastry is made of plain flour mixed with clarified butter that is rolled out and folded in half. It is filled with curried potato and meat, and sometimes half a hard-boiled egg.3 Popular variants include a filling made of sardines.4 In general, the filling is cooked separately and then folded into the pastry before the puff is closed and crimped at the sides.5


History
Believed to be inspired by the British Cornish pasty, the curry puff was likely introduced into the Malay Peninsula in the 1800s.6 Some have suggested that the shape of the curry puff is similar to the Portuguese empanada, a type of meat pastry.7 Others consider the curry puff to be influenced by the Indian samosa, which is a triangular-shaped pastry with meat or vegetable filling.8


Epok-epok, the Malay version, is a fried pastry filled with sardines or potatoes flavoured with rempah (a paste of mixed spices) but without curry.9 In the 1970s, itinerant hawkers would travel from place to place on bicycles, with their epok-epok displayed in glass cabinets mounted on the bicycles. These were sold accompanied by a sweet-and-sour chilli sauce.10

The shape of the curry puff was said to have been changed by the Malays to resemble a crescent, which is the religious symbol of Islam.11 The Chinese soon adopted this popular Malay snack and modified it.12 They produced a version filled with potato, chicken and a hard-boiled egg, which is recognised as the modern-day curry puff.13 Indian curry puffs are triangular or rectangular in shape.14

Unlike the epok-epok, the early version of the curry puff had a short-crust pastry with light flaky skin similar to Western pies, which had a more buttery pastry.15 It is believed that the curry puffs were already sold by street vendors prior to being sold in eateries and restaurants.16 One of the earliest mentions of the curry puff is found in a Straits Times advertisement by G. H. Sweetshop, dated 14 March 1924.17

Local curry puff chains
Polar Café, a popular local eatery set up by Chan Hinky in 1926, is often mentioned as one of the first to sell the pastry.18 It was reported that Chan’s wife had learnt the recipe from a friend.19 By the early 1930s, restaurants in top hotels such as Raffles and the Adelphi were advertising their offerings of curry puffs.20 In the decades that followed, curry puffs became popular items on the menu for picnics and parties.21


The deep-fried curry puff was popularised by local snack food chain Old Chang Kee.22 First set up as a small stall in a coffeeshop near the old Rex Cinema in 1956 by Chang Chuan Boon, the humble stall was transformed into a local brand name by his nephews, Han Keen Juan and Bugs Tan, when they bought over the business in 1986.23

Another famous curry puff vendor is Tip Top Curry Puff, which was set up by Indonesian-born Looi San Cheng.24 First sold at his bakery in Marine Parade in 1976 before a stall was established in Ang Mo Kio in 1979, the curry puffs contain a secret mix of herbs and spices with potatoes brought in from the Netherlands.25

Variants
The Polar puff has fillings of chicken and onion but no potatoes.26


Another curry puff seller, Moh Kway Kheng, had modified the curry puff by shaping it into a pyramid with three pleated folds in the centre. She began selling these in the 1980s at Bukit Timah, and later at Toa Payoh. The curry puff with curry chicken filling, potato and boiled egg proved to be popular with customers.27

The layer curry puff, or spiral curry puff, is a version where the dough is repeatedly rolled out into a long sausage shape, added with flour and shortening, and then flattened before it is finally rolled into a circle and stuffed with filling.28

There are also varieties of curry puffs with layered, flaky pastry – such as the Wang Wang Crispy Curry Puff at Old Airport Road – which are influenced by that used in Teochew mooncakes.29 Vegetable epok-epok stuffed with beansprouts and chives, and then fried in a sweet and spicy, vinegared chilli sauce is harder to find.30 In Kuala Lumpur, only the puffy, baked variety of curry puff is available.31

Variant names of the curry puff include karipup, currypup and epok-epok.32



Author
Bonny Tan




References
1. Koh, T. (Ed.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 152. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Naleeza Ebrahim & Yaw, Y. Y. (2006). Not just a good food guide: Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 216. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 NAL)
2. National Heritage Board. (2010, May 19). Curry puff [Web log post]. Retrieved 2016, November 29 from yesterday.sg website: http://yesterday.sg/blog/content/curry-puff; Burton, D. (2012, August 18). Consistently great fare. The Dominion Post. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Hutton, W. (2007). Singapore food. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 HUT)
3. Naleeza Ebrahim, & Yaw, Y. Y. (2006). Not just a good food guide: Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 216. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 NAL); Tan, S. (2014). Singapore heritage food: Yesterday’s recipes for today’s cook. Singapore: Landmark Books Pte Ltd, p. 37. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 TAN)
4. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 152. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
5. Naleeza Ebrahim, & Yaw, Y. Y. (2006). Not just a good food guide: Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 216. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 NAL)
6. National Heritage Board. (2010, May 19). Curry puff [Web log post]. Retrieved 2016, November 29 from yesterday.sg website: http://yesterday.sg/blog/content/curry-puff
7. Burton, D. (2012, August 18). Consistently great fare. The Dominion Post. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
8. Hutton, W. (2007). Singapore food. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 HUT); Chan, M. (1978, August 24). Delhi delight. New Nation, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Naleeza Ebrahim, & Yaw, Y. Y. (2006). Not just a good food guide: Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 234. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 NAL); Seetoh, K. F. (2007, March 4). Curry puffs the way nenek made them. The New Paper, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Seetoh, K. F. (2007, March 4). Curry puffs the way nenek made them. The New Paper, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Tay, L. (2010). The end of char kway teow and other hawker mysteries. Singapore: Epigram Books, p. 149. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 TAY)
12. 刘佑珠 [Liu, Y. Z.]. (2007, June 3).《咖喱角》[Curry puff]. 《联合早报》[Lianhe Zaobao], p. 61. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Chan, M. (1982, December 26). Stroll down Kali Pup lane. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Tay, L. (2010). The end of char kway teow and other hawker mysteries. Singapore: Epigram Books, p. 149. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 TAY); Huang, L. (2007, October 14). The curry puff test. The Straits Times, p. 110. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. 刘佑珠 [Liu, Y. Z.]. (2007, June 3).《咖喱角》[Curry puff]. 《联合早报》[Lianhe Zaobao], p. 61. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Seetoh, K. F. (2007, March 4). Curry puffs the way nenek made them. The New Paper, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Page 7 advertisements column 5. (1924, March 14). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Tan, Y. H. (2008, January 6). Polar has something to puff about. The Straits Times, p. 56; Seetoh, K. F. (2007, March 4). Curry puffs the way nenek made them. The New Paper, p. 25; Café boasts the best curry puffs in town. (2000, July 23). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Polar Café matriarch dies of cancer at 90. (1993, November 27). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Page 5 advertisement column 3: Raffles Café. (1932, June 13). The Straits Times, p. 5; Page 5 advertisements column 1: Adelphi Hotel. (1932, January 22). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Castle, J. (1948, March 5). Cooking column picnic pieces. The Singapore Free Press, p. 2; Heathcott, M. (1941, August 16). Shaw film premiere in aid of services club. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 5; Notebook of an Asian woman. (1950, August 11). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. 刘佑珠 [Liu, Y. Z.]. (2007, June 3).《咖喱角》[Curry puff]. 《联合早报》[Lianhe Zaobao], p. 61. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Old Chang Kee’s recipe for success. (1991, December 9). The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Tip Top puffs its way into China. (2006, August 21). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Customers still buying puffs. (2007, October 6). The New Paper, p. 2; Leong, W. K. (2007, October 6). Curry puff villain. Today, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Leong, W. K. (2006, July 30). Eighty years and it’s no puff. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Thng, L. T. (2009, June 21). Fluffy goodness. The Straits Times, p. 63. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Saw, B. (2004, April 3). Pastry that turns out hard. New Straits Times. Retrieved from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
29. Huang, L. (2007, October 14). The curry puff test. The Straits Times, p. 72. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Seetoh, K. F. (2007, March 4). Curry puffs the way nenek made them. The New Paper, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. This curry puff’s going places. (1992, June 18). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Gluttons unite in foodie haven. (2000, December 5). The Straits Times, p. 11; Seetoh, K. F. (2007, March 4). Curry puffs the way nenek made them. The New Paper, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Cookery>>Cooking methods>>Frying
Snack foods--Singapore
Ethnic Communities>>Food
Cookery>>Types of meals>>Lunch, brunch and snacks
Ethnic foods