You probably already know that Garam Masala can make any dish delicious. However, do you know exactly what this spice is? Garam masala is actually a blend of spices, rather than one single ingredient. The spices used in Garam masala can actually vary by region. One of the most common Indian variants contains the spices: black and white pepper, cloves, cinnamon, mace, cardamom, bay leaves and cumin.
While there are other versions of the spice blend, this one is the one you’ll probably find in the shops. Other recipes will often contain extra ingredients such as herbs, but almost all versions will contain cumin. Because Garam masala is a blend of spices rather than a spice produced from a specific ingredient, it’s quite easy to make yourself.
Since this is such a customisable spice, you can make your own versions which enhance the flavours you like the most. There is no ‘real’ Garam masala so it can be changed to match your tastes.
The most common variety of Garam masala originated in Northern India. You’ll find that Garam masala is a very warming spice which can be comforting. This is likely the reason behind its creation.
Garam masala was developed as a way to keep you warm. The name ‘Garam Masala’ literally means ‘Hot Spice’.
Garam masala has been found to help speed up your metabolism. This is why it is such a warming spice; having a fast metabolism can help to raise your body temperature. As it can be colder in Northern India than other areas, this spice blend would have been useful to help you stay cosy during the colder winters. Garam masala would have been spread throughout the world as time went on. Explorers and traders would introduce the spice into their own cultures, which is why there are so many varieties.
As Garam masala can be so good at keeping you warm, it would have been a staple spice in many cultures, which is why you can find it used so extensively today.
The massive influx of Desi people into Britain between 1800 and 1950 would also contribute to the spread of Garam masala. As with many Desi foods, this spice took root in British Asian culture and has remained a fixture to this day.
Garam masala is more popular today than ever before. Almost every curry recipe will call for some. This popular spice is also found to some extent in almost every Desi culture.
Garam masala is so common that you can find it in almost every supermarket. The history of Garam masala as a warming spice blend means that it’s very commercialised. It’s produced by many brands and easy to obtain.
In Ayurvedic medicine, Garam Masala has been used for centuries to treat a number of common health issues as well as in the promotion of overall good health. Some of the best known health benefits of Garam Masala include the following:
- Reduces bloating
- Fights bad breath
- Staves off disease
- Boosts the immune system
- Aids in detoxification
- Acts as an effective pain killer
- Lowers blood sugar levels
- Slows the aging process
- Relieves gas & heartburn
- Soothes upset stomach
- Promotes weight loss
- Increases the body’s ability to absorb vitamins, minerals & other nutrients
Common Uses of Garam Masala
Outside of India, Garam Masala is a popular ingredient in Pakistani pilaf dishes. In the United States, it has recently gained popular as a way to spice up a variety of dishes from roasted meats and vegetables to traditional desserts like pumpkin pie.
Most commonly, Garam Masala is a staple of Indian cuisine, with an important historical tradition of being passed down from generation to generation. The composition of Garam Masala varies not only by region, but with families as well. It’s quite common for a family to have their own favored blend which they use almost exclusively.
Perhaps the most well-known use for this spice mixture is in curry dishes, but it is used in nearly every type of Indian cuisine imaginable.
Some recipes call for specific changes or alterations, such as blending herbs with the spices in a Garam Masala. Other recipes call for spices to be ground with liquid ingredients such as water, coconut milk or vinegar to create a paste. Certain recipes even call for the addition of other ingredients to the completed Garam Masala mixture such as onion, garlic and even nuts.
In some Garam Masala mixtures, the spices are carefully blended to achieve a perfect balance between all of the various flavors of which it is composed. In others, one flavor might be emphasized over all of the others, creating a particular flavor that stands out amidst a myriad of complementary tastes.
As you begin to explore the ways in which Garam Masala can enhance your own dishes, feel free to experiment, as this mixture of spices can complement flavors all up and down the spectrum. Just be careful to keep a light hand as you do so—even the most basic Garam Masala is incredibly flavorful, so a very little bit goes a long, long way!