A country known as the ‘Land of Spices’ for centuries, India is blessed with states like Kerala that are a magical bowl providing flavour and fragrance to the world. India produces more kind of spices than any other country in this world. The history of spice trade is quite eventful and even today, it plays a great part in the country’s economy. I have had a chance to explore a variety of Indian food recipes enhanced and glorified by these spices in Berlin. As soon as I step at an Indian restaurant in Berlin, I am greeted by an inviting aroma of delectably spiced cuisine.
Of all the spices and spice blends, Garam Masala seemed the most intriguing to me. It literally takes the flavour in a recipe to another level. It’s important to note that it cannot be used in all the recipes, simply because it may overpower the subtlety of some ingredients. Though I have to say it is rare to imagine a biryani or butter chicken without garam masala and if I may be so bold as to add it to my traditional stew recipe, I am bowled over.
Ingredients of Garam Masala
The contents of a garam masala spice mix may come from different provinces or regions. But the mixture becomes a blend that makes one feel, they were always meant to be together!
It mainly consists of:
· Black and/or white pepper
· Bay leaves
· Caraway seeds
· Fennel seeds
· Coriander seeds
· Ginger powder
All the ingredients are taken preferably fresh and then either dry roasted (pakka garam masala) or sundried for a few days (kaccha garam masala) before grinding them to a coarse powder.
The History of Garam Masala
The first time I tasted Indian food in Berlin, my mouth lit up with delicious tastes and I could instantly feel the warmth. This cozy warm feeling could be the reason why it is believed that garam masala originated in North India, where winters can be especially chilly and snowy too.
As it slowly spread through the world, many variants were created and based on the types and proportions of spices preferred, tastes differed as well.
Properties of Garam Masala
It is strong, robust and spicy in flavour, brown in colour and quite aromatic. Garam masala adds layers of flavours to dals, biryani, curries, stews, stir fry, meat preparations like chicken tikka and more. Many people prefer adding it towards the end of cooking rather than at the start, but opinions vary.
Garam Masala is gluten free and has a long shelf life. To preserve the aroma and flavours, it is suggested to keep it in an airtight container and in the refrigerator in case you live in a humid or warm environment.
It brings out the flavours in a dish, improves digestion, improves metabolism and increases the body temperature due to its warming nature. The ‘Curry powder’ that you may find at your local grocery store in many countries is actually a version of garam masala too.
For any Indian food lover, garam masala is a staple to have in your pantry. It could very well become your favourite spice blend. I have even had the joy of tasting chai or tea that was brewed with a pinch of garam masala at a restaurant in Berlin. Such a versatile spice that sings of bold flavours and loving warmth!