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How Chillies Came To Rule Over Our Palates

How Chillies Came To Rule Over Our Palates

“Garam masala is a fluid term,” chef and author Sadaf Hussain told me. “The different spice blends that go into nihari (slow-cooked meat stew), biryanis, kababs, or even the chai masala are all essentially versions of garam masala in different permutations and combinations.” Hussain also blends his own garam masala. He roasts each spice separately to just the right degree. “In addition to regular garam masala spices, I add spices like stone flower, asafoetida, and salt, which give the blend a whole new depth of flavours. Sometimes, a hint of rose petals goes in to add more floral notes,” he says.

However, it is reasonable to assume that the culinary use of expensive, traded spices was originally restricted to the affluent kitchens of royalty and aristocracy. As spices became more accessible and affordable, they slowly came to be incorporated into different cuisines. Over time, garam masala may have acquired its more egalitarian status. “But most of these spices like cardamom, nutmeg, and mace are expensive even by present-day standards,” says Vernika Awal, who documents her native food from Punjab on Instagram under the handle Delectable Reveries. “So, the use of garam masala in common domestic kitchens is still slightly marginal. The composition of the blend and its use in one’s kitchen may, in fact, reflect one’s economic status,” she adds. Jain blended spices shop online

Even within the narrow definition of a specific spice blend used largely in northern and western Indian cooking, garam masala is somewhat elusive. In her 1961 cookbook Mrs. Balbir Singh’s Indian Cookery, Singh (who has been dubbed the Indian Julia Child), describes garam masala in strict terms as “a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, black cumin seeds, nutmeg and mace.” Seasoning Masala Shop near me. Singh’s garam masala is an intense concoction with strong sweet and pungent notes and a hint of bitterness.

Interestingly, many recipes for garam masala (like my mother-in-law’s) feature spices like coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds that are actually cooling spices. This speaks to garam masala’s balance of tastes and flavours, which pacifies some of the heat and offsets the intensity of stronger aromatics to create a well-rounded, versatile spice blend. Again, the flavour of garam masala depends on the combination and proportions of spices, how the spices are treated, and even the method of pounding. Recipes for garam masala, in fact, vary not only with every region, but also with every kitchen and every cook. masala wholesale market in Mumbai This ranges from the basic mix of three spices that is popular in Bengal to extravagant recipes that list over 30 spices, often classified as chef’s secrets (every Indian chef swears by their personal garam masala blend) or as family heirlooms passed down through generations.

“Garam masala is a fluid term,” chef and author Sadaf Hussain told me. “The different spice blends that go into nihari (slow-cooked meat stew), biryanis, kababs, or even the chai masala are all essentially versions of garam masala in different permutations and combinations.”

He roasts each spice separately to just the right degree. “In addition to regular garam masala spices, I add spices like stone flower, asafoetida, and salt, which give the blend a whole new depth of flavours. Sometimes, a hint of rose petals goes in to add more floral notes,” he says.

Like most things on the subcontinent, there is no linear narrative around garam masala, no one way to make or use it. The story of this spice blend is as layered and complex as its flavour notes. What makes it a worthy representative of Indian spice blends is its fascinating versatility — its ability to seamlessly accommodate and adapt to myriad culinary sensibilities and possibilities and remain all the richer for it.

The term garam masala, as Maragaret Shaida writes in her book The Legendary Cuisine of Persia, “is derived from the Persian garm meaning hot and masaleh meaning ingredients or materials.” However, hot in this case does not merely indicate peppery heat. Instead, it refers to the intrinsic heating property of the spices that are typically used to make garam masala, such as black pepper, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace etc.

Ancient medicinal systems like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine identify ingredients by their elemental properties. Ayurvedic principles, for instance, classify substances into two broad categories according to their virya or potency into ushna or hot and sheetal or cold. This, in turn, affects the body’s energies, metabolism and digestion.

In the Perso-Arabic Unani system of medicine, the potency or active principle of ingredients is known as taseer. Garam masala principally refers to spices that have a warming effect on the body. By inference, it also refers to a blend of such spices, whether ground or whole. Many, in fact, ascribe garam masala’s popularity in the cuisines of northern India to its heating properties, agri koli masala, deemed suitable for the harsh north Indian winters.

Like most things on the subcontinent, there is no linear narrative around garam masala, no one way to make or use it. The story of this spice blend is as layered and complex as its flavour notes. What makes it a worthy representative of Indian spice blends is its fascinating versatility — its ability to seamlessly accommodate and adapt to myriad culinary sensibilities and possibilities and remain all the richer for it.

The term garam masala, as Maragaret Shaida writes in her book The Legendary Cuisine of Persia, “is derived from the Persian garm meaning hot and masaleh meaning ingredients or materials.” However, hot in this case does not merely indicate peppery heat. Instead, it refers to the intrinsic heating property of the spices that are typically used to make garam masala, such as black pepper, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace etc.

Ancient medicinal systems like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine identify ingredients by their elemental properties. Ayurvedic principles, for instance, classify substances into two broad categories according to their virya or potency into ushna or hot and sheetal or cold. Malvani Masala, This in turn, affects the body’s energies, metabolism and digestion.

In the Perso-Arabic Unani system of medicine, the potency or active principle of ingredients is known as taseer. Garam masala principally refers to spices that have a warming effect on the body. By inference, it also refers to a blend of such spices, whether ground or whole. Many, in fact, ascribe garam masala’s popularity in the cuisines of northern India to its heating properties, deemed suitable for the harsh north Indian winters.

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