Thursday, July 11, 2013

Garam masala.....the Bengali version

garam masala

What goes in the Garam masala? a common question I face from my readers. The word 'Garam' means hot and Masala means spices, though the hot does not imply the heat of chili but the powerful exquisite flavor of the spices. Garam Masala is a blend of different spices. It is extensively used in Indian cuisine, but the composition of Garam Masala differs from one region to the other. So I thought I would rather explain these various different combinations of Garam Masala for the interested readers. I will start with the Eastern part, specifically Bengal. Today I would like to focus on the simplest form of the garam masala, the Bengali version.

This above image is my contribution to edition #92 of Black and White Wednesday -  A Culinary Photography Event created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook, now managed by Cinzia of Cindystar, and hosted this week by Simona of BricioleThis is an image of the three basic ingredients of Garam Masala, cinnamon, green cardamom and cloves. The original Image I took was a color image I converted it to a black and white image using Photoshop.
On this page you can find who is hosting the current and future editions of this event.

A regular Bengali Garam Masala contains the basic three ingredients, Cinnamon, Cardamom (green) and Cloves. And that's the reason I also call them the 3'C' garam masala. Mix them in equal quantities and ground to powder and you are ready with your Bengali version of garam masala. I have seen my grand mother, aunts and mom to use not a powder but a paste. They use a flat stone to crush the hard spices then grind it with little water. They do this fresh everytime while cooking. Sometimes coarsely ground or lightly pounded garam masala are also used to hot oil as tempering (phoron) to the dish.

Cinnamon has it own delicate, slightly sweet fragrance. This spice is native to Srilanka and the oldest known spices. In European countries the use of cinnamon is mostly limited to sweets. In the Middle-East and Sub-continent cinnamon is extensively used in meat curries as well as in vegetarian curries and rice preparations. I like the flavor of cinnamon in my meat and fish curries. Personally I like to increase the amount of cinnamon while making a meat dish.

Cardamom is a spice of great antiquity, used for ages by the Egyptian, Greeks and Romans. It is extensively used in India and Middle-East. It is the third most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla. The plant grows profusely on the Malabar coast of India. The small green capsule contains several minute black seeds. Green cardamom is both used along with the green cover and without the cover, depending on the requirements. Black cardamom is also a related variety, but not used in the regular Bengali Garam Masala mix.

Cloves are dried unopened flower buds, named after the Latin word clavus, meaning nail. Clove has its own strong, sometimes bitter flavor. It is must while making pulao in Bengali household. I remember my grandmother used to make a rice flavored with cloves, named lobongo-bhat, an aromatic rice I love. But make sure you discard the small round part at the top of the clove before adding it to any dish.

So this is the easy simple Bengali style garam masala. Take equal quantity of cinnamon, green cardamom, cloves and ground them to powder. The powder can be stored in an air-tight container for 2-3 weeks. You can use this powder in dishes like Malaikari, bengali chicken or mutton curries, fish kaliya etc and etc.

Soon I will write about other different variations of Garam Masala used in different regions in India, till then keep rocking in your kitchen.

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  1. My Maa grinds it fresh everytime and it does taste/smell different. I am yet to go that far and still using the dry-ground one. :(

    1. Yes Soma I have seen my mother and aunts doing the same, that freshly made spice brings much better flavor.

  2. Looks yummy...bookmarked... and tempting clicks...

  3. That's a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing Chitrangada :-)

  4. Exactly,....this is the eastern garam masala, In bihar and jharkhand as well Garam masala powder means this. I miss my maa's recipe at the moment, everytym she needs the garam masala, she takes the mentioned ingredients in a typical small steel okhli... and prepares the coarse powder.... Thx for sharing this.

  5. Wowwww... very stunning photographs.. thanks for the awesome recipe :)

  6. Wonderful post and pics... Couldn't take my eyes off the pics :)

  7. Neatly & precisely put.. I never knew that the round upper part in cloves had to be discarded before coking... I always add the whole ones.. Wil do next time ! Thanks for sharing :)

  8. love that black and white pic of three spices...nothing works without this masala

  9. I will come back to your post when I am ready to make masala at home, something that is on my to do list. In the meantime, I enjoyed the words and the photos. Thank you so much for contributing to Black and White Wednesday.

  10. Brilliant presentation. Thanx a pile.