Introduction to Indian Masalas....

Curry powder in the form that is known in the west was invented in Madras, to be exported to England for the use by the English who had become addicted to curries.
In India , spices are used in highly individual way, and daughters learn how to use them by observing their mothers and grand mothers.

Each region of India and each sub-cuisine has its own palette of spices. Professional cooks in India have a great understanding of the role,possible uses and the limitations of each spice. For example pepper is used extensively in Kerla where it grows and the essence of 'keora' is extensively used in the Lucknowi cuisine.

Incidently, contrary to a wildely held belief, various forms of curry powder do feature in the traditional Indian cooking.Throughout the western part of Maharashtra, masala powder is ground and kept for later use, though the composition of the masala varies. The East Indian christian community of Bombay makes a curry powder comprising of 30 spices, some very little known.

Unlike commercial curry powders, it resolves the problem of some spices getting cooked while others remain under-cooked, because each spice is roasted seperately for different requisite lengths of time before grinding. They make it just before the hot season and store it, tightly packed in the long green bottles, for a whole year. For this reason it is called the "bottled masala", although infact it is a 'curry powder'. Similarly in March and April the chettiars of Tamil Nadu sun dry several spices, and onions as well, and make little marble sized balls of curry powder rolled with oil which they also store for the entire year. These are called kaarivadagam, the addition of oil helps them keep it for a long time.

By and large, however, spices are used individually in the Indian cooking. Grinding these spices is a very important part of the curry making process. If the spices are not ground properly the curry will have neither the correct texture nor the taste. However these days , grinding the spices is not a very known chore because the groung masalas are raedily available in the stores and are quite handy. However, one masala is worth mentioning here is the garam masala, which has a distinct aroma and imparts a distinct flavor to the dish is it is ground fresh and we will study a little bit of this particular 'melange' of spices.

As mentioned above, the garam masala contributes to both flavor and aroma. Garam means 'heating' or 'hot' and masala of course refers to the spices.So, garam masala is a mixture of those spices which create heat in the body- cinnamon, cloves, pepper and black cardamom. Nowadays, cooling spices like green cardamom and tej patta or saunf are also added to the Garam Masala.Some of the chefs add rose petals to it. Check out for a few kinds of Garam Masalas we have on this site. Garam Masala is mainly used in meat and rice dishes, rarely in fish and vegetables.

Garam masala should be stored air tight in  and can be kept for 6 months or so.

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