Garam is a blend of ground spices, originating from the Indian subcontinent, common in cuisines from the Indian subcontinent, Mauritius and South Africa. It is used alone or with other seasonings. The word garam refers to “heating the body” in the Ayurvedic sense of the word, as these spices are believed to elevate body temperature in Ayurvedic medicine. There are other types of masala, like tikka masala and tandoori masala.
The composition of garam masala differs regionally, with many recipes across the Indian subcontinent according to regional and personal taste, and none is considered more authentic than others. The components of the mix are toasted, then ground together.
A typical Indian version of garam masala contains:
- Black and white peppercorns
- Cinnamon or cassia bark
- Mace (outer covering of nutmeg)
- Black and green cardamom pods
- Curry leaf
Some recipes call for the spices to be blended with herbs, while others call for the spices to be ground with water, vinegar, or other liquids, to make a paste. In some recipes, ingredients including nuts, onions, or garlic may be added. Some recipes also call for small quantities of star anise, asafoetida, chili, stone flower (known as dagadphool), and kababchini (cubeb). The flavours may be carefully blended to achieve a balanced effect, or a single flavour may be emphasized. A masala may be toasted before use to release its flavours and aromas.