Kerala garam masala is one of the amazing aromatic spice mix powders that are prepared homemade with a mix of wonderful fragrant freshly roasted and ground cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, mace, fennel seeds, nutmeg, pepper and star anise.
Garam masala is an easy to make spice blend which is used in most Indian dishes. It’s a combination of different spices and the recipe differs from region to region or from one family to another. Garam masala is best when made fresh just before you begin cooking. It can also be stored for several months in air-tight container in a cool, dark place.
Kerala, a very gorgeous state in India and also popularly known as God’s own country is very famous for the exotic spices grown in the region. Once part of the legendary Silk Route, Kerala has historically generated international interest and trade links due to the abundance of these condiments. Spices generally grow in this region are cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, black pepper and ginger. Apart from this you would also find leafy oregano, rosemary, curry leaves, thyme, basil (tulsi), mint, bay leaf, coriander and sage. The Malabar Coast is the reservoir of most of these choices of spices and condiments.
Usually in Kerala, the home made garam masala consists of fennel, cardamom, clove and cinnamon that are used for the regular curries while sometimes spices like black pepper, mace, nutmeg are added specially to prepare the exotic biryanis, chicken curry or egg roast which makes the dish totally unique with its flavours. There are many regional variations for Biryanis and some of the well-known are Hyderabad Biryani, Awadhi Biryani, Sindhi Biryani, Malabari Biryani and so on. Every dish has its own unique taste and flavours adding different variety of spices.
The addition of fennel seeds in the Kerala style of making Garam Masala makes the dish aromatic and unique. The essence of flavour lends that authentic taste and awakens your senses and makes you float in the clouds of spice heaven which is truly mystic. Spices are aromatic substances of vegetable origin that are used to flavour foods. Every spice has its unique flavour and taste and blends amazing well when mixed together.
Cardamom is popularly known as the queen of spices and can do wonders to the taste of any cuisine with its intrinsic flavouring ability. This spice emanates a strong aromatic flavour with a somewhat pungent flavour and can be used to flavour savoury and sweet dishes. Cardamom is endemic to the Western Ghats of Kerala and hence India was the only country who had the monopoly of cardamom and now spread to other countries too. Cardamom is also famous for its medicinal values and it is commonly used in cooking, beverages, perfumery, medicine, breath freshener and helps in digestive process.
Cinnamon was renowned from the ancient past and has been cited in the age-old Egyptian and Chinese scriptures. The Egyptians used cinnamon for the process of mummification of the Pharaohs. There are also Biblical allusions of cinnamon. Cinnamon was considered more precious than gold and was related to ancient sacrifices and rituals. In fact the southern regions of India especially Kerala lured the Europeans including the Portuguese, Dutch and the British in India to carry out the profitable trade of cinnamon. They controlled the plantations of cinnamon in the 1500 and earned huge revenues from them.
Cinnamon has an aromatic flavour due the presence of 0.5 to 1% of aromatic oil. The bark has a sweet and hot flavour and a delicate aroma. Hence it is also referred as the sweet wood. However it is milder in flavour and lighter in colour than the other spices. Cinnamon is used in especially in spicy cuisines of Kerala and other delicacies either in powdered forms or in small fragments. It is also used in all kinds of preparations from confection, curry, rice dishes, desserts, chocolates, ice-creams, bakery products and so on. Cinnamon has anti-oxidant property and is also used as a preservative. It has significant medicinal uses and helps in digestive ailments besides being an anti-viral, antiseptic, and antifungal and a great blood purifier.
Cloves are one of the essential aromatic spices of Kerala. It has a hot and pungent flavour and used for flavouring various meat and bakery products. The cloves also have a sweet-hot mixed flavours and the aroma adds great taste to the food. Cloves form an essential ingredient of Keralite dishes. It is mainly used in culinary and medicinal purposes. Cloves have anti-microbial and anaesthetic properties in them. The eugenol oil in the cloves is used a local anesthetic for toothaches. Besides cloves are helpful in the treatment of diseases like asthma and bronchitis, sprains, muscle aches, rheumatism and arthritis.
Nutmeg is a wonder spice for many lip smacking Mughlai dishes and the aromatic delight that are. Nutmeg (Jathikai) or the Myristica fragrans is the secret behind the delectable fare. It can be traced back to the first century era before the birth of Jesus Christ. This fragrant spice belongs to the family tree of the Moluccas and Portuguese traders, who flocked to the coasts of Kerala in lure of the silk route, popularized this spice to India. It highlights the flavours of any delicacy. There are many Arabian mutton and lamb delights that have nutmeg as a seasoning ingredient. Spices are famed for their medical benefits. Nutmeg is no exception. It is a cure for lungs, stomach, liver and a host of other ailments. Nutmeg also lends its fragrance to perfumes and a host of other items.
The word pepper is derived from the Sanskrit word- pippalii. It has a hot flavours and a distinct aroma that makes the preparation very delectable. Kerala has been renowned since elapsed times for its illustrious spices. All foreign traders and travelers from European countries were lured by the fresh aromas of Kerala Spices. Especially the Malabar Coast was the sole centre of spice trade. Cardamom is the Queen of Spices while the King of Spices is the pepper. Pepper is a dark colored berry like fruit which is crushed or made into powder while using. Kerala produces bigger-sized, best flavoured and aromatic pepper in India and also in the world. Interestingly the “Malabar Coast” literally means “Pepper Coast.” The finest quality Kerala’s pepper is grown along the low and high ranges of Kerala. Pepper is used as a stimulant and is used a carminative to treat digestive and gastric ailments. Pepper is used for preparing the very popular dish namely, millagu rasam (pepper water).
Star anise is the dried, star shaped fruit and is one of the signature flavours of Chinese savoury cooking. The five-spice powder mix common in China contains star anise. It is used to flavour vegetables, meat, and to marinate meat. It is used as a condiment for flavouring curries, confectionaries, spirits, and for pickling. It is also used in perfumery. The essential oil of star anise is used to flavour soft drinks, bakery products and liquors. The fruit is anti-bacterial, carminative, diuretic and stomachic. It is considered useful in flatulence and spasmodic. Star anise is one of the spices in five-spice powder. It is an ingredient of the mixture known as “Chinese Five Spices”.
Fennel Seeds are commonly used in Kerala for its highly aromatic flavours. It is considered a very flavourful herb and used for culinary and medicinal purposes. Fennel is prominently featured in Mediterranean cuisine especially used in salads, pastas, vegetable dishes and risotto. Many cultures in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Middle East use fennel seed in their cookery. It is one of the most important spices in Kashmiri Pandit and Gujarati cooking. In many parts of India and Pakistan, roasted fennel seeds are consumed as mukhwas, an after-meal digestive and breathe freshener.
To prepare this Kerala style fresh aromatic Garam Masala, firstly lightly dry roast all the ingredients over slow flame separately and cool it. Grind the spices mixed together until it becomes a fine powder. Store in air-tight container.
Tip – Dry roasting brings out a different aroma and flavour and also increases the shelf life of the spice mix.
Finally to sum it up, Kerala’s climatic conditions is conducive for the growth of most of these wonderful and aromatic spices. It has carved a niche for itself in the world of ecological tourism. Next time you visit Kerala, do not forget to pick up the best export quality of spices and do try this for flavouring your exotic and exceptional delicacies. Click on the link for viewing the making of Kerala garam masala.