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Garam Masala which literally means hot (Garam) spice (Masala) is not a spice in itself. It is a spice blend used throughout India and the rest of the Indian Subcontinent. This special blend of spice is used in a small quantity at the end of cooking or fried in the beginning of cooking to add a subtle flavor to the cooked dish. Please note, garam masala must be added in small quantities, or else it will overpower the dish.
Many different kind of Garam Masala is found depending on the region and the personal taste. Some common ingredients are black & white peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, long pepper (also known as pippali), black cumin (known as shahi jeera), cumin seeds, cinnamon; black, brown, & green cardamom, nutmeg, mace, star anise and coriander seeds. It is used alone or with other seasonings. Garam masala is pungent, but not "hot" in the same way as a chili pepper.
How to select
While commercial garam masala preparations can be bought ready ground, as with all ground spice, they do not keep well and soon lose their aroma. Whole spices, which keep fresh much longer, can be ground when needed using a mortar and pestle or electric coffee grinder. While buying packaged garam masala, check the expiry date and feel for lumpiness( sign of moisture inside the packet.
· Garam masala is usually either added to a curries, vegetable dishes, soups, or stews toward the end of cooking or sprinkled over the surface just before serving
· Garam is used in range of cuisine as per the recipe such as in Roghan josh, chicken kurma, dal makhani, etc.
· Garam masala can be added to season fish curry, chicken masala and in the marinade for mutton.
How to store
While commercial garam masala preparations can be bought ready ground, as with all ground spice, they do not keep well and soon lose their aroma. Store masala in an airtight container in a cool dark place.
· Since the masala powder is added only in small quantities, it does not have substantial health benefits. However the use of cloves, and peppercorns are known to improve digestive complaints and immune functions.