Mughlai Garam Masala
Having spent many of our young adult years living and working in north India, my husband and I both have a deep appreciation for the rich mughlai flavors of this garam masala. It is much more fragrant, and just a little bit richer than other recipes, thanks to the Central Asian influence.
Like other spice blends, garam masala (literally, hot spice blend) comes in many varieties. Depending on the geographical origin of the chef or the family who prepares it, the spices involved in this classic Indian blend vary rather dramatically. Some recipes contain as few as 7 spices. Others contain as many as 32 individual spices.
Garam Masala is most often added at the end of cooking to perfume a dish. Its fragrance makes the dish more appetizing and pleasurable to eat. Ancient texts tell us that there are scientific reasons why this spice blend enhances a dish.
Health Benefits of Garam Masala
According to ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of health and wellness, this simple spice blend stimulates the six rasas (tastes) necessary for a balanced diet. These tastes are: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent, and bitter.
However, garam masala has another important benefit which is alluded to in the name — garam or hot. When you examine the ingredient list, you will notice that it contains no chilis. Thus, this is not a blend we would consider hot. However, when the ancients spoke of heat, they were referring to the digestive fires (agni) considered essential for good health. Hence, these spices stimulate healthy digestion.
Modern science is beginning to prove the wisdom of ancient ayurvedic traditions, including the health benefits of garam masala. In a study, published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer, researchers evaluated the effects of this spice blend when given to animals for a 10 day period. In a mere ten days, the animals demonstrated a significant and positive change in levels of detoxification enzymes. Thus, the study demonstrated that garam masala has a positive effect on the excretory system, particularly removing toxins from the body.
Yet other research has shown a definite reduction in tumors as a result of consuming this simple spice blend. Therefore, adding garam masala to your meals may not simply enhance its taste. It may also help fight cancer and improve your health.
This recipe is adapted from my favorite Indian cookbook,1,000 Indian Recipes (1,000 Recipes) by Neelam Batra. The blend calls for saffron, mace, nutmeg, and ginger, all of which set it apart from other garam masala recipes. These spices constitute the flavor elements that create a richness and subtlety of flavor typical of mughlai cuisine.
Mughlai cuisine developed in the urban centers of medieval India. At that time, India was ruled by the Turco-Mongol Mughal Empire. Court cuisine, which was incredibly sophisticated, represented a combination of cooking styles, seasonings, and techniques from Central Asia and India. The style of cooking which arose from this rich cultural mix is still incredibly popular today, particularly in and around Delhi, Lucknow, and Hyderabad.
I hope your family enjoys the flavor of this masala as much as mine does. Bon appétit!