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Garam Masala is referred to a combination of different spices. It also refers to what the entire world calls the “curry powder“.
Garam = Hot/Heat; Masala= Spice Mix. The spices in India are usually used whole or ground into to a powder. If its used whole, they are usually added in the beginning of the recipe as way to temper a dish, and if used in the powder form, it is generally sprinkled on the dish after it is almost done cooking.
The term “curry powder” is non existent in an Indian kitchen. There are several spices used in every day cooking and they are combined in hundreds of ways in different parts of the country. There is no one curry powder. What is sold in the stores as “curry powder” is usually a combination of different spices blended together. Knowing that, the Garam Masala can be referred to as a kind of curry powder. As you can imagine, different combination of spice blends will make spiced powders/curry powders of different flavors and aroma.
This recipe is based on one that I had got from my friend’s mom. (Thanks Anuja! If you ever read this, you will know that I have not forgotten and will never forgot that wonderful aroma from your lunch box!) They belong to the state of Punjab. I had never asked the exact proportions of the spices, except the coriander has to twice the amount of the cumin, and of course the specific kind of spices that are used. Different regions in India, and also different households have their won way to make the Garam Masala. The Punjabi Garam Masala is typically not dry roasted and the Black Cardamom loses the sweet aroma on dry roasting it, but then again it is a personal choice.
Garam Masala is used to enhance the flavor in a dish and is used in very little quantity. I usually use about only 1/2 tablespoon of garam masala in a recipe for a serving of 4-5.
The hot/heat in Garam Masala is not the same kind of hot as in hot green peppers. It actually are the kind of spices that is used here which raises the body temperature. It is intense, warm, aromatic, lively and evocative.
The following is the recipe for Punjabi Garam Masala – the combination of spices being used in the northern regions of India. For this particular recipe, I do not roast the spices.
Lightly roasting the spices before grinding is another option and the spice mix is a little differently fragrant than this one here. If you are roasting the spices, do them in a dry thick bottomed skillet. Roast each spice individually until just fragrant. Cool before grinding. Do not roast the black cardamom.
- 1/2 cup whole coriander seeds
- 1/4 cup cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons small green cardamoms
- 6-8 black cardamoms
- 2 tablespoons cloves
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- 4 sticks of cinnamon, approx. 2″ each
- 3 bay leaves (Indian Tej patta)
- 3 red dry chili pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
Note: For a roasted version, which has different flavors, dry roast whole spices separately until just fragrant.
If you are roasting the spices, do them in a dry thick bottomed skillet. Roast each spice individually until just fragrant. They do burn very quick; watch them while roasting and take them off the heat the moment they get fragrant. Cool before grinding.
Grind all ingredients dry in a spice or coffee grinder.
May be stored in air tight containers for many months.