Curry Leaves: Unique Indian restaurant making enjoyable Indian food for everyone’s taste buds
TEXT: LINDA A. THOMPSON | PHOTOS: CURRY LEAVES
Curry Leaves, a family-run Indian restaurant in the Danish harbour town of Sønderborg, was born from a simple aspiration – allowing Danes to experience the full richness of North and South Indian cuisine, no matter how hot or mild they like their lamb curry.
A couple of years ago, Sinthu Sivakumar, an electronic technician by training, wanted to head in a different career direction. For as long as she could remember, she and her husband, Sivakumar Sivasamy, had been whipping up Indian dishes for their friends. With every dinner party, they would prepare new dishes, taking their guests on a journey through the country’s rich cuisine and gradually expanding their taste palettes. The feedback from their friends was always the same: you two should open a restaurant.
So, when she was ready for a career change, she decided to do just that. Together with her husband, Sinthu opened her restaurant Curry Leaves in Sønderborg, a small harbour town in southern Denmark, in 2014.
Opening their own Indian restaurant was also a dream of Sivakumar, an engineer by training. “He would come home from work and tell me that many of his colleagues had never tried Indian food before,” Sinthu explains. “This made him sad, as he felt they were missing out.”
Curry Leaves is a true family restaurant. Sinthu and Sivakumar split the chef duties, while their two children serve the customers.
From the sauces down to the spice mixes, everything is made from scratch at Curry Leaves, which is located close to the city’s harbour. The two chefs make daily shop runs to buy vegetables and fruit, so that the dishes they serve at dinnertime are as fresh as possible.
More or less spice? Your call
Curry Leaves combines a self-service buffet – which includes mild, child-friendly dishes such as the Dall Curry, to spicier ones like the Devil Curry – with traditional restaurant service. The à la carte menu includes stapes of Indian cuisine like Tikka Masala, Lamb Curry and Butter Chicken. The last dish – a creamy chicken curry – is the restaurant’s most popular one, Sinthu explains. “The sauce is similar in texture to European-style sauces, but taste-wise it is an Indian sauce.”
Indian cuisine of course varies from region to region, so Sinthu and Sivakumar chose to focus on North and South Indian cuisine. “North Indian cuisine is diverse, with a wide variety of flavours, from sweet to sour to bitter,” Sinthu explains. “South Indian cuisine is bolder and spicier. But this doesn’t mean that you’ll have flames shooting out of you,” she quips. “We have adapted the spiciness to the Sønderborg area, so that our Indian cuisine is a viable option for anyone.”
In fact, diners at Curry Leaves can have any dish on the menu customised to precisely the level of spiciness they like. “We bring out small dishes with the nearly finished sauce of a guest’s dish for them to taste,” Sinthu says. Diners can then choose to make it more or less spicy, or not change anything at all.
Sinthu came up with this idea – unique in Sønderborg – during the early days of the restaurant, after realising that many guests found the food too spicy. “Everybody who comes here tells us: ‘This is the first time that we are getting a taste before we are served the food.’ Guests have never had an experience like that before.”
Truly inclusive, regardless of dietary needs
Making Indian food accessible to all is in fact what Curry Leaves is all about. The menu, for instance, includes many vegan dishes as well as dishes free from gluten, lactose and nuts. Once every two months, the restaurant also hosts a popular vegan and allergen-free night. Eaters who are allergic or intolerant to gluten, nuts or lactose can kick back and relax that evening as the entire buffet will be 100 per cent free of those ingredients. “This night is specifically for people who usually struggle to find a good meal due to their dietary restrictions,” Sinthu explains. “For one night, they can experience a full buffet with several appetisers, a dozen vegan and allergy-free main courses, a vegan salad bar and even a vegan ice cream bar.”
For the years to come, the two chefs are determined to continue to reduce the restaurant’s carbon footprint. “We want to be as green as possible and use local and environmentally friendly ingredients,” Sinthu explains.
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