One of my readers asked me if I know how to make the little snack called “karipap” that she had eaten in Thailand. And If I did know them, what type of curry paste they used in the filling and also how to make the flaky circular puff pastry dough. Pretty much asking me for the recipe of this snack.
Of course I do know the little “karipap”. I ate plenty of them and even participated in stuffing them many, many times before in my childhood, but the recipe, ahem…errrr…not really. Someone else–my relatives, my aunt, my grandma, my friend’s mother or one of those “adults”–would make the dough and the filling, then I would just sit down to perform the fun part, wrapping the dough around the filling and waiting for the finished wrapped snacks to be fried so I can eat them.
I had to dig around, make some phone calls, and nearly had to strangle my relatives for the recipe. Luckily, there is an ocean on one side and another ocean and about two continents on the other side to separate me from them, so they managed to keep themselves alive! I finally got the recipe.
This is the first time I made them all by myself, so, there will be a second post in the future. I can’t say when yet, but you will get another one when I perfect it to the point that no further improvement can be made.
This little curry puff is a very popular snack in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. The official name in Thailand and Malaysia is “Karipap”, spelled กะหรี่ปั๊บ in Thai. Malaysians also have a different name, Epok-Epok, which is well understood in Singapore as well. I had no idea about the existence of this pastry in other country until I posted the pictures of the prepared curry puffs on my Facebook page before frying them, and a Chinese friend commented on it and said she knows this snack too, but I think she meant gali-jiao, the other Chinese baked puff pastry without the spiral layer crust.
Someone who’s never heard of this little snack before must be furious now. What the heck is it, already? It is a deep-fried pocket of pastry stuffed with savory ingredients, including spices and meat. The most popular filling is chicken with potato, flavored with curry powder, but it’s not limited to just chicken. Beef is also a popular filling choice as well.
The character of the dough is quite special too. It’s called a “Spiral Curry Puff”. The spiral is applied to the appearance of the dough that has several layers of paper-thin dough stacked up in a spiral shape, resulting from the way we laminated the dough that you will learn from this post.
I tried my best to find a history of this little snack to fill my own little brain cells and for your knowledge as well. I failed, since it is eaten primarily in three countries. (Note: I only count the countries that make these puffs with the spiral pastry dough and not the ones with the smooth dough or even the ones that bake the pastry instead of frying, because in that case I would have to include all the South American countries that make empanadas, too!) I googled all three names in English and got multiple results.
Summaries of all researches: One said it had British influence, of which I disagree. I’ve never seen British transporting layered or laminated dough as they colonized the planet. Not only that, Malaysia could not have been the only country that adopted these laminated doughs, right? The Brits were all over the globe at some point. Why didn’t other countries inherit this circular dough?
One said it is from Portuguese influence. This is slightly closer than Brit, but I still disagree. This is a FRIED dough, not a baked dough. The empanada idea cannot be discounted in this case, but I still don’t see a trace of the circular layered dough there.
One said it has Indian influence, with the proof of the samosa as the instigator. I don’t discount that as well. True, samosas have almost the same filling (minus the meat part) as this karipap, but the shape and the dough isn’t the same.
I have my own theory. I think Asians for some reason like to label the “influencer” as the Westerner first and forget to look in their own region. I think this curry puff resulted from a combination of Chinese influence and Indian influence.
Why do I think the Chinese have a part in this? The circular dough, if you really look into the way it is layered, is very similar to the Chinese bean cake’s layered dough. They don’t use pure butter to separate the layers of the dough like the French, but they use flour mixed with lard as the “layer separator”. How clever. It’s also much easier to roll the dough in the hot climate too.
Another proof is the way they layer in a circular tube instead of rolling a big sheet in layers like the mille-feuille or other normal pastry. This is very typical of the Chinese, who are much more efficient. Why bother rolling the whole sheet when you still have to cut it later into small pieces to use it, right?
The filling definitely has Indian influence, with the curry powder and potato in the mix. I’m not going to argue with that. The southern part of the Malay Peninsula was the melting pot in the olden time because it was the port for vast trading and the docking place for ships heading back and forth from Europe, and India to China and vice versa. It makes sense to assume that the spiral curry puff has been born of multi-cultured influence.
If my assumption is wrong, please, send me more proof. I’m open to all the facts beyond what I could find.
In the meantime, let’s make the karipap.
I used a chicken filling because this it the most popular and most well-known filling. You can substitute the chicken with ground beef or come up with your own filling once you know what to expect. I also make some with shrimp, or purple yam, or taro root too. The sky is the limit when it comes to the savory filling of the Asian dumpling.
Ingredients for the filling
Chicken meat, cut in cubes about 1/2” size, 1-1/2 cups
Onion, diced 1 cup (or one small onion)
Cooked potatoes, cut in cubes, 3/4 – 1 cup (or one medium potato)
Curry powder 1 – 1–1/2 tablespoons
Salt 2 teaspoons
Sugar 3 – 4 tablespoons
Butter or oil to stir fry 2 – 4 tablespoons (depending on the type of pan or wok you will be using. I used 2 tablespoons for a non-stick wok)
(Optional) Ground white pepper 1/2 – 1 teaspoon
(Optional) Thai Trio, garlic, cilantro root and white pepper, mixed 1 teaspoon
(Optional) Maggi or other seasoning sauce 1 tablespoon
(Optional for chili lovers) Ground paprika 1 teaspoon
Method for the filling
1) I cooked the potato in the microwave. Cut along the length and cook on one side first for 2 minutes then turn and cut the other side (to release the steam and prevent the potato bomb in the microwave) along the length again and cook for another 2 minutes. This makes it easy to peel. Cube it and you should be ready to stir-fry the filling.
2) Cut and prep everything before you even think about taking your wok or pan out.
3) Put oil or butter in the wok at medium heat and start with the Thai-trio and onion.
Cook the onions until nearly transparent.
4) Add the chicken, half of the curry powder and half of the seasoning (salt, seasoning sauce and sugar, but keep the paprika and the pepper aside for now)
stir fry them until the chicken is done, or at least 85% done. You will continue cooking it in many steps.
5) Add the potato and the rest of the seasoning, including the paprika (if you are using it; I don’t, as you might already know),
stir fry until they’re all mixed well. Let the potato absorb the liquid, which is the duty of the potato here.
The content has to be dry or the dough will get soggy.
6) Taste-test it and adjust to your preference. If you follow my ingredients exactly, it may seem borderline too salty–don’t worry, we will have the dough wrapped on the outside and everything will be fine at the end.
7) Turn off the heat and stir the white pepper in. Then you leave it to cool while you are preparing the dough.
This is a laminated dough.
What is laminated dough?
It is a dough that is stacked in multi-layering. The method is to layer the dough alternating with fat–either butter or oil–so each layer won’t stick back together again. You don’t do it one layer at time. It’s not that smart to do it that way. You start with two layers, sandwiching a layer of fat in the middle then roll the whole thing flat, which of course makes it longer. Then you fold. From two layers, one fold will give you four layers, right? Two folds will give six layers.
They you roll it out again because after the first fold, you dough get too short and too thick to fold again. After another roll, from six layers one fold you will get twelve, two folds you will get eighteen layers. Do you get the idea? Normally you will do one more roll and this time you will get many, many more layers, about 18 times 3, at the least. You get 54 layers. If you want more one more fold you will get over hundred layers, if the dough allows you to.
This is the mysterious “mille-feuilles” secret. Do you know that the dough of the mille-feuilles would be folded six rounds, with three folds in each round. (No, I never been able to do the whole six, my dough was fighting furiously at round four, so I never got more than 200 layers 😦 but I will someday. (Someone else claimed that over two thousand layers has already been done—come on!)
The method is not that much different between the French and the Chinese way, except that the French roll and fold a rectangular sheet of dough. Let’s see how the Chinese would do it.
There will be the main dough. In this case I will call it the “water dough”. This is flour mixed with oil, water, salt and sugar. This is the dough that would be eaten after frying. It will be the “outside” dough at the start. Then there will be the inner dough, and this is called “the oil dough”. It is just flour and oil mixed. This layer of dough would served as butter in puff pastry or, if you ever made mille-feuille, this will be the same as the butter block mixed with a little bit of flour.
Ingredients for the water dough
All purpose flour 300g
Oil 5 tablespoons
Sugar 2 tablespoons
Salt 1/2 teaspoon
Water 8 – 10 tablespoons
Baking soda 1/2 teaspoon
Ingredients for the oil dough
All purpose 120g
Oil 3 – 5 tablespoons
1) I need to explain why I gave the ingredients in ranges and not exact. It’s depends on how moist your flour would be, and this is not up to you as much as your environment. I used the recipe from Thailand for the water dough and it always too dry; I have to add water every time because California is definitely dryer than Thailand. My friend in Florida has no problem following the recipe from Thailand with the exact same amount of water in her dough.
How about the oil dough? Same problem—it depends on the level of moisture in your flour. So start with the low number first and see if the dough comes out right, then gradually add more water or oil as needed.
Good news, I am developing my own water dough recipe that replaces the oil with egg, and I will give it to you as soon as I can perfect it.
OK…Mix all the ingredients except add water–just 8 tablespoons first–then knead it, then add more water if you need it. Mix until the dough is smooth in your hands. You can use the stand mixer (I do) but do not over-mix, and let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes.
2) Mix the oil dough by using 3 tablespoons of oil first and if the flour won’t become cohesive then add more. I used 4-1/2 tablespoons for mine.
3) After the resting period,
divide both doughs in two or three portions. I divided mine in three but I’m sure two would be ok too. You will get more layers with two.
4) Roll the dough into balls, flatten the water dough balls and put one of the oil doughs inside and wrap it completely. Repeat with the rest of the balls.
5) Roll the dough out flat
and start rolling one side of the dough into a cigar shape. Repeat it with the rest.
6) Now turn the rolled dough so it sit 90 degrees from the edge of the counter.
Roll them all out flat again.
7) Roll them back into a roll again. This time the roll will be so much fatter and much shorter.
8) Prepare to cut the rolled dough in to discs. I expect you to get about 20-22 discs from all of this flour.
9) Roll the disc flat. You can see the circular pattern.
Roll it thinner into an oblong shape.
10) Fill the dough with the filling.
11) Close the dough around the filling.
You can close it with fork, but the traditional way is to twist the edge of the dough the way I do here.
12) Put the finished wrapped dough in a tray and cover so they won’t get dry. Do it until you fill every piece of dough.
13) Put oil in a wok, enough to cover the karipap. Set it over medium heat.
14) Fry the karipap in the medium heat, turning repeatedly so they get even heat until they’re golden brown. If your oil is not hot enough, you will see the pastry start to fall apart.
If the oil is too hot, the karipup will brown on the outside but be wet and sticky on the inside.
15) Eat it with Ajad that I gave you the recipe for long time ago here.