Difference Be Garam and Tandoori
The Indian cuisine could not do without its vibrant spice mixes called masala. This Hindi word actually means both: spice and spice mix. The use of spices in India dates back thousands of years. Even today, India remains the leading producer of spices in the world—but it does not only export them. India’s domestic spice market is the biggest in the world. Garam masala is one of the most commonly used spice mixes in Indian cuisine. Tandoori masala imparts its typical flavor to foods that are cooked in a tandoor or clay oven.
Spices were originally used to preserve food in hot climates, especially cloves. They contain a substance with the name “eugenol” that inhibits the growth of bacteria. The Indian subcontinent has always been the source of rare spices for the rest of the world. Thousands of years ago, spices were exported to the ancient empires of Rome and China. Today, India is the largest producer, consumer, and exporter of spices, accounting for half of the global trade.
Spice mixes called masala are sold all over the world today. Traditionally, a masala was prepared fresh daily. The ingredients were toasted over fire and then ground by hand on a masala stone. A masala does not consist only of spices but can contain herbs and other condiments as well. Today, many housewives use electric coffee grinders to produce small amounts of fresh masala.
These spice mixes can be divided into two groups—wet and dry masalas. A wet masala contains not only a mixture of ground spices but also water, vinegar, yogurt, or coconut milk. It can be used as a marinade for meat and seafood. Sometimes it is fried in oil before the main vegetable or meat is added to the dish.
Because spices quickly deteriorate when they are exposed to light or air, Indians use a special spice storage box called Masala Dabba or Masala Dani. This box is made from stainless steel with a tight-fitting lid. Inside the box, spices are kept in seven small bowls with the owner’s favorite spices.
Garam masala is the most popular dry spice blend in India, originating in North India. It comes in many variations, depending on the region and the cook. Clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and cardamom are quite regular ingredients. Cumin, coriander, pepper, and nigella seeds are also widely used. Although the name garam means hot, chillies are not used in garam masala. Some people explain this with the fact that garam has to be understood as heating the body and raising the metabolism to keep one warm in winter. On the other hand, chillies make a person sweat and chill.
Garam masala is often added in small amounts after the dish is cooked—creating a spicy smell rather than enhancing its taste. In North Indian cuisine, garam masala is normally used in powder form. In South India, it is often mixed with coconut milk, vinegar, or water. One thing is common to all spice mixes carrying the name garam masala: the spices are toasted before grinding to enhance their tastes.
Tandoori masala is typically used for foods that are cooked in a tandoor or clay oven. However, housewives can use it also for dishes prepared on a stove or in an oven. Commercially-sold tandoori masala is often bright red due to food color. This masala is made with powdered garlic, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, mace, cumin, coriander seeds, fenugreek, cinnamon, black pepper, and cardamom. Its taste is described as hot, salty, and sour with predominant flavors of cumin and coriander.
Recipe for Garam Masala:
- 3 Tbsp. coriander seeds
- 2 Tbsp. cumin seeds
- 2 Tbsp. cardamom seeds
- 2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
- 1 tsp. cloves
- 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
Place all the spices except the nutmeg in a dry pan with a heavy bottom. Toast them for about ten minutes while stirring. When they give off a rich aroma, let them cool down. Grind them, mix in the nutmeg, let it cool down completely, and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
Recipe for Tandoori Masala:
- 2 teaspoons Ginger powder
- 2 teaspoons Garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Nutmeg powder
- 2 teaspoons Kasthoori methi or Fenugreek seeds
- 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons Cloves
- 2 teaspoons Mace
- 3 tablespoons Cumin seeds
- 4 tablespoons Coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons Black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons Black cardamom
- 2 teaspoons Green Cardamom
Grind all the seeds and mix with the ginger, garlic, and nutmeg powder. Roast the spice mix in a dry pan with a heavy bottom for around two minutes on a low flame until it emits a toasted smell. Let it cool down completely and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
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