Before we come to the spice mix or garam masala we need to understand India. The country is vast and strikingly diverse. All the elements and features that make a Nation are steeped deep in diversity. It is said that the country changes every fifty kilometers and so does the food. The food enriched by masalas or spices delivers amazing flavors not necessarily hot. Garam Masala is definitely hot but used subtly it can end up delivering an array of flavors that could be mind-boggling and linger amidst the taste buds for long. Last but not the least, it is extremely healthy and whence used with a daily dose of common spices …long life is assured.
Making Hot Spicy Garam Masala
Hot! That is how Indian Cuisine is labeled almost always. But this is a myopic view of one of the World's most tongue-tingling cuisine. Diversity reigns large. Read On
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India The Land of Spices
It is true that most of the spices in culinary use in India are grown in its various States especially Kerala. But what is not true is that they have been in use for centuries. Well, some spices which are part of the popular spice mix used in the kitchens of the country were introduced from other parts of the World.
It was Christopher Columbus the Goan adventurer who introduced chili to us when he managed to reach India by sea.
Nutmeg originated in Banda Island in South East Asia.
Spices were traded extensively since time immemorial by agents from many civilizations they were travelers, traders, and even conquerors. The quest for spices was immense as they formed a lucrative trade all over the World.
The acceptance of spices that originated overseas is a reflection of the Nation's belief in harmonious existence and nothing is shunned because of its origins. No wonder the country is referred to as a potpourri of cultures.
Use of Spices in India
Spices like clove were used during the Vedic Times and find mention in Epic Ramayana. As trade increased and travel within India and outside became easier due to trade routes the spices found patrons in various parts of the World.
In India, the extensive use of spices was probably due to easy availability as most of them were grown in the country. Hence all the country culinary practices depended upon the use of spices. They use was independent addition or as a mix.
The mixing of spices leads to the creation of Garam Masala which is usually a mix of many ingredients and impart heat and flavors to the recipe if added in adequate amount. However, if used sparingly it can end up flavoring the recipe without imparting heat. Thus culinary experts or modern-day chefs use their own garam masala mix. The mixes are prepared separately for various dishes like curries, dry vegetables, dal or lentil soup, chicken and meat preparations, etc.
Garam Masala Recipe
Garam Masala Powder
Hot Spice Mix
Nowadays with increasing consumerism garam masala powders are available in consumer retail shops and mega markets or the local bazaars as we call street vendors in India. You can buy spices from large traders in volumes or in packets from the mega markets and even order them online.
For those Chefs and housewives not interested in making their own mix the market is an option. But still a large number of housewives and expert Chefs make their own mix pertaining to a particular recipe or a collection of recipes.
The spices are added or mixed together in a ratio that depends upon the desired taste. The common spices are added after roasting on a pan or directly are:
- Nutmeg (Small amounts)
- Red Chili
- Mace (Small Amounts)
- Cardamom Seeds
- Black Cardamom
These are the common elements in a typical household garam masala. You can make a mix using these elements in a proper ratio and then grind them together. The powder so obtained can be used for a considerable period if kept in airtight container in the kitchen cabinet.
Additional Items in Garam Masala
Cooking With Masalas
Making a spice mix in Indian Cuisine is like colors on an artist's palette. Though there are standard recipes followed in most of the households expert chefs use additional items in differing ratios to come out with spectacular Garam Masala which will impart mouth-watering taste. This practice is followed by street vendors, small restaurants on highways the dhabas, and some enthusiastic housewives.
Additional items used in creating this spice mix are limitless but usually, some may add:
- Star Anise
- Caraway Seeds
- Shahi Jeera (Greater Cumin)
- All Spice
- Tamarind Dry
- Bay Leaves
- Curry Leaves
- Mango Powder
- Rock Salt
- Dry Ginger Powder
- In modern-day cooking use of foreign spices is not unheard of and people may use them in this spice mix as well.
In India the methodology may remain the same all over - well nearly - the recipes change widely and unique endemic recipes are a common occurrence everywhere.
India is a paradise for foodies!
Using Garam Masalas
Well, it is anybody's game. People prepare their own mix or buy garam masala from the market. The masala mix is usually part of the cooking process. It is added whence you are beginning to prepare the curry mix on a sizzling pan with hot oil.
You can also sprinkle a bit of the powder just to create a dazzling top note.
In many instances, the mix is roasted lightly on a dry pan and then put into use.
Sometimes the mix is also sprinkled on soups and dals or lentil soups in India.
Garam Masala finds use in many snacks and finger foods albeit the mix-use more of rock salt and mango powder to accord a salty taste. This is called Chaat Masala and very popular all over the country.