In recent years, North Americans have expanded their culinary repertoires to include foods from a myriad of far-off places. Hummus, Manicotti, Pad Thai, Pierogi, Souvlaki, and Paella can be found in many restaurants and kitchen tables across the United States and Canada. One fare, however, remains somewhat shrouded in mystery, largely unexplored by the usually adventurous Western consumer. Indian Cuisine.
Thankfully, there is a way to experience the unique flavors of traditional Indian cooking in the comfort of your own home. And it involves one important ingredient. Garam Masala.
When you think of Indian Cuisine, images of fiery curry dishes likely spring to mind. While curry is popular, particularly in India’s southern regions, Garam Masala is also a traditional “go-to” spice.
The Gourmet Sleuth describes Garam Masala as being a “warming spice” that originated in Northern India where the winters are cold. It has been used for centuries and has been adopted by Pakistan and all over Southeast Asia. And, yet, the average North American has never heard of it.
While there are different variations, “Garam Masala: The Magic Ingredient in Indian Vegetarian Recipes” offers this traditional recipe.
- 2 tsp. cardamom pods
- 2 tsp. cinnamon bark
- 1 tsp. black peppercorns
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp. cloves
- 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
Pulverize the above ingredients in a spice mill or coffee grinder and store unrefrigerated in an airtight container.
The Masala Dabba
While North Americans rely on an assortment of labelled bottles stored in a nifty spice rack to house their treasured spices, traditional Indian cooks turn to the user-friendly Masala Dabba. This round stainless steel container usually contains seven small bowls, each filled with its own spice.
In “10 Things to Know About Indian Spices,” it is described as being akin to an artist’s palette, filled with amazing colors, from which the cook will put a “little bit of this and a little bit of that until the perfect blend of aromas is achieved.”
There are two important rules to remember when cooking with Garam Masala. The first is to use this spice in small quantities as it can overwhelm the dish’s other components–and your taste buds.
Rule number two is don’t add the Garam Masala until the end of the cooking process.
Garam Masala is a versatile spice that can be used in a variety of vegetable, bean and poultry dishes. If you’d like to try your hand at cooking with this traditional Indian seasoning, you can find a tempting recipe at AllRecipes.com.
It’s White House-Approved
It turns out that President Obama and the First Lady are fans of this Indian seasoning too. A nine-year-old Indian American girl from Illinois wowed stately couple with her Garam Masala Quinoa Burger during a competition to create a healthy recipe for lunch. According to the Times of India, the First Lady stated that the young chef “blew the judges away with her talent and creativity.”
Whether you’re an experienced chef, self-professed foodie, or home cook who’d like to try something new, you will want to explore the world of Indian Cuisine. Mix up some Garam Masala and get cooking.
What is your favorite Garam Masala dish?
Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer who loves to travel and try new foods. You can follow her at The Embiggens Project.
Images courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com.