The origin of curry puff remains a mystery. One belief is that the pastry was created in South East Asia during colonial days to accommodate to the taste of the British.
The curry puff has a resemblance to British Cornish pasty. However, instead of minced beef, onion, potato, and swede as fillings in a traditional Cornish pastry, the curry puff, as its name suggests, has curry in it. The difference between the two is the method that they are made. While Cornish pasty is baked, the curry puff is usually fried, which in this case, shares a similarity with the Indian samosa. Some said that curry puff also resembles the Portuguese empanada.
Food writer Wendy Hutton believes that in order to cater to the taste of the British, the pastry was modified from Indian samosa to become the curry puff as we know today. The British’s love for curry puff could be found in an account given by Lilian Allan Newton, a British who grew up in Singapore in the 1890s. Newton describes the snack as “the oriental cousin of our sausage rolls but much nicer!” They were also said to be a “stand-by for picnics and parties”.
Polar Cafe, founded by Hinky Chan in 1926, is said to be the first shop to sell curry puffs in Singapore. Their curry puffs are baked instead of deep-fried. In 1998, the company was renamed as Polar Puffs & Cakes. In 2005, it was awarded a ‘Heritage Brand’ by the Singapore Prestige Brand Award.
Another popular Singapore food retail chain known for its curry puff is Old Chang Kee, founded by Hainanese immigrant Chang Chuan Boon. It first began in 1956 as a humble stall in a coffee shop. Today, the company produces as many as 45,000 curry puffs a day for distribution to their outlets across Singapore. On 2 June 2018, Old Chang Kee opened their first restaurant in London, where a curry puff costs £2.80 each. This is three times the price of the same Old Chang Kee curry puff from Singapore, which costs SGD$1.50.
The Malay version of curry puff is commonly known as epok-epok. Although some people use the terms curry puff and epok-epok interchangeably, they are in fact “different in origin, pastry, filling, and sauces, such that calling them “the same” would be like calling a tart and a pie identical”, says an article by Makansutra. Unlike the curry puff, epok-epok has rempah with sardine or potatoes as its fillings. Rempah is a paste of mixed spices such as chili, garlic, and shallots. Epok-epok is also commonly eaten with sweet-and-sour chili sauce.
One of the most well-known epok-epok stalls in Singapore is Yang’s Epok Epok. Madam Yang Hassan’s recipe for epok-epok came from her grandmother. Besides epok-epok, Madam Yang and her siblings used to sell other dishes such as goreng pisang back in their kampong days. It was their epok-epok that became the reason for turning it into a business.
A deep-fried or baked pastry that has curried fillings; usually curried potatoes and chicken. One of the variants available today has sardines as its fillings. On March 2019, to commemorate Singapore Bicentennial, Old Chang Kee created the laksa curry puff. Instead of the usual curry fillings, these puffs are made with Old Chang Kee’s homemade laksa paste.
Plain flour for its pastry dough, a healthier recipe calls for wheat flour. Margarine or butter as shortening.
Chicken, potato, onion and curry powder that consists of various spices such as chilli, turmeric, cumin, etc