Garam masala. A melange of warming spices, this aromatic spice mix is quintessential in Indian cooking. To be exact, it’s the soul of Indian dishes. Here’s a basic guide to this spice mix – and all the tips and tricks to make the best version.
What It Is
Simply stated, it’s a mix of different kinds of whole or ground spices. The word “garam masala” literally translates to warming spices. The fact is that the spices used in this mix warm up your body making curries and stews an ideal winter food. Generally, it’s added to the dish towards the end of the cooking process to preserve the beautiful aroma and taste. This spice mix is supposed to be an authentic addition to Indian dishes, however, like all spice mixes, there are endless variations.
Depending on the regional variation in the spices grown, ingredients and spice level may differ in different parts of India. There might also be other additions like black cumin seeds or mace with some blends consisting of as many as 30 ingredients. This amazing spice blend is thought to have originated during the reign of Mughal empire in the northern parts of India. Eventually, it became an essential spice mix of all Indian dishes.
How To Make Garam Masala
All you need to make this aromatic spice blend are a few whole spices, a small frying pan and your spice grinder or food processor. The first step is toasting the spices. You have two options here – stovetop or oven. Either way, the spices are going to be perfectly toasted.
For the stove top method, you will need a small frying pan placed over low heat. Remember, the key word is “low heat”. Make sure the heat is as low as possible. And again, stir continuously. The whole process will take only a few minutes. Perfectly toasted spices will be very aromatic and lightly browned. To toast the spices in the oven, place them on a baking tray, set the time, and it will be ready in few minutes. Done!
Now, let’s talk about the spices used in this blend. Coriander seeds – the nutty dried seeds from coriander plants. Cumin seeds and fennel seeds may look similar, but the latter are slightly larger than former seeds and they have very different flavor profiles. Black peppercorns – as you know, they are the cute little black seeds with a peppery taste and it also brings in heat to this spice mix. Cardamom pods – the small green pods and large, black pods. The green cardamom is commonly used in sweet dishes. The black variety may not be easily available from your local grocery store, but you can find them at your local Indian store.
Cloves are super tiny and look like small flowers. With flavor, they pack a punch, so pay attention to the amount you use in your garam masala mix. Cinnamon stick – the rolled wooden spice in your Indian spice mix. They are used in both sweet and savory dishes. The star shaped star anise is certainly a beautiful addition to this blend. With the bay leaves, only use dried leaves in this mix, no fresh leaves. Nutmeg is actually a large round spice and you only need a little to spice up a whole dish.
The best part? You can make this masala ahead and store in an airtight container. You will only require a teaspoon of this spice to flavor your dish, so I highly recommend making them in small batches. The blend may lose its aroma and taste overtime.
More Spice Mix and Sauce Recipes:
- Homemade Tandoori Paste
- Easy Indian Curry Paste
- Korma Paste
- Thai Massaman Curry Paste
- Vindaloo Paste