Its leaves are highly aromatic and are used as a(n) herb. Their form is small and narrow and somewhat resemble the leaves of the Neem tree; therefore they are also referred to as Kari Bevu, translated to Black Neem, in the Kannada language and Karivepaku in Telugu again translating to the same meaning. In Tamil and Malayalam it is known as Karuveppilai, ilai meaning leaves. Other names include Kari Patta (Hindi) and Karapincha (Sinhalese). They are commonly used as seasoning in Indian and Sri Lankan cooking, much like bay leaves and especially in curries with fish or coconut milk. In their fresh form they have a short shelf life and may be stored in a freezer for up to a week; they are also available dried, although the aroma is clearly inferior.
Curry leaves are extensively used in South India and Sri Lanka. They are particularly used in South India cooking to provide a flavouring for curries, vegetable, fish and meat dishes, soups (rasams), pickles, butter milk preparations, chutneys, scrambled eggs and curry powder blends.
They are mainly used fresh, but are also used dried or powdered. For some recipes, the leaves are oven-dried or toasted immediately before use. Another common technique is short frying in butter or oil. Since South Indian cuisine is dominantly vegetarian, curry leaves seldom appear in non-vegetarian food; the main applications are thin lentil or vegetable curries and stuffings for samosas. Because of their soft texture, they are not always removed before serving.
In India the leaves are sold in markets still attached to the stem. In Europe they are generally sold as dried leaves but some are imported fresh.