Garam masala from Hindi garam ("hot") and
is a basic blend of ground spices common in Indian and other South Asian
cuisines. It is used alone or with other seasonings. The word garam refers to
spice intensity, not heat; Garam masala is pungent, but not "hot" in the same
way as a chili pepper.
Left: Garam masala.
The composition of garam masala differs regionally, with wide
variety across India. Some common ingredients are black & white peppercorns,
cloves, bay leaves, long pepper (also known as pippali), black cumin (known as
shahi jeera), cumin seeds, cinnamon; black, brown, & green cardamom, nutmeg,
star anise and coriander seeds. Varying combinations of these and other spices
are used in regional variants of garam masala, none of which is considered more
authentic than another.
Some recipes call for spices to be blended with herbs, while others grind the
spices with water, vinegar or other liquids such as coconut milk to make a
paste. In some recipes nuts, onion or garlic may be added. The flavours may be
carefully blended to achieve a balanced effect, or in some cases a single
flavour may be emphasized for special dishes where this is desired. Usually a
masala is roasted before use to release its flavours and aromas.
for garam masala.
The order in which spices are added to food may be very
elaborate in some dishes. In the case of the Kashmiri speciality
for example, coriander, ginger and chilis are each ground individually. A garam
masala of cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, mace, cumin, turmeric and nutmeg
is separately prepared. The cook tastes the dish carefully to determine the
precise moment when the next spice should be added. The order is coriander
initially, then the ground ginger, then the garam masala and finally the chilis.
In the chicken dish Murgo Kari (chicken curry) the procedure is also precise.
First the chicken is fried and removed from the pan. Onion, garlic and fresh
ginger are added to the pan and cooked slowly for 7 to 8 minutes. Next cumin,
turmeric, ground coriander, cayenne and fennel are added with water and fried
for a minute or so. Next tomato concassé is added with cilantro, yoghurt and
salt. The chicken is returned to the pan and more water is added. Finally some
garam masala is sprinkled on top, the pot is tightly covered and the dish cooks
another 20 minutes before serving.