WHAT IS GARAM MASALA?
The Hindi name literally translates as a “blend of spices” and that’s exactly what it is! While popular in Indian cuisine, this recipe has spread throughout Pakistan and Asia. There are many different regional variations of garam masala depending on which ingredients are locally available. The classic recipe consists of peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, mace, cardamom and cumin. Dry roasting of the spices before using is strongly recommended to help bring out their flavor. Also some chefs will break masala down into spicy masala (with chili peppers) and non-spicy (without). In northern India this mix is typically a powder versus the south where it tends to be a spicy paste. The hotter climate there allows for popular ingredients like coconuts and chili peppers to flourish.
WHY IS GARAM MASALA GOOD FOR YOU?
There are quite a few health benefits that come with eating this super spice blend more frequently. According to the Indian science of Ayurvedic medicine, garam promotes digestion by improving your “digestive fire” (raising your metabolic rate which considering they figured this out 5,000 years ago is pretty damn impressive). Rich in anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories, and anti-carcinogenic substances, this mix can also help lower your blood sugar. And for those of us who have trouble going to the bathroom, garam masala helps promote regularity.
WHEN IS GARAM MASALA IN SEASON?
Because these spices are dried and ground, there is no one season.
HOW SHOULD GARAM MASALA BE STORED?
Like with any dried spice mix, moisture is the enemy. So keep it in a sealed container away from sunlight or heat. Do not store them in your refrigerator, instead keep them at room temperature. If you have not yet ground the spices (because you like your mix freshly ground), some people advocate freezing the raw ingredients while still whole. Sadly, this is a bad idea and you’re better off making and storing the powdered version for optimal flavor.
HOW MANY SPICES ARE TOO MANY FOR A GARAM MASALA BLEND?
Part of the appeal of the garam masala spice blend is that it’s perfectly balanced. However with so many different versions (sometimes containing over 24 ingredients), how do you know what is or isn’t “balanced?” According to Ayurverda, a proper garam masala should balance all 6 “tastes” while providing the right balance of “heat.” These “tastes” are salty, sweet, bitter, sour (not the same), pungent, and astringent. So long as your spice mix contains all of these tastes in balance, you’re good to go! Nutmeg and cumin for example are much stronger then cinnamon. So by weight you’d use more of the latter to create a harmonious balance when weighing out a spice mix.