Kate Heyhoe

Kate's Global Kitchen


The Indian Kitchen: Masalas

by Kate Heyhoe


There is, as I wrote in the Curry article, no such thing as "curry powder" in the true Indian household. What they do have are masalas, spice blends, which they make from scratch and are used to create the dishes known as curries.

The process is complex: whole spices are toasted and ground then mixed in varied and specific proportions to create these masalas. When making curry dishes, an Indian cook will create a masala and then add it to the meat, rice, pulse or vegetable being cooked along with other flavorings that may include ginger, onion, chiles, cilantro, garlic and other "wet" ingredients. The whole foundation of Indian cooking is based on the use of spices, whole and ground, toasted or raw, added together or separately and mastering their use is a true culinary art.

Indian woman

Certain classic masalas are cooked with so frequently they are often made in batches then added as needed. But spices lose flavor quickly, so even if made in advance, these masalas will still be fixed in small enough batches to be used within a week or so or as long as they maintain their fresh flavor. These masalas will vary from region to region, based on the availability of spices, the climate and the predominant cooking methods.

Garam masala means "hot spice" is exactly the opposite of what it sounds like. It is used in the colder northern areas and has no chiles in it, as these cause perspiration which in effect chills the body. Instead, it contains warming spices like cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, cloves and black pepper—spices that would be at home in any good winter stew. Goda masala, made in the tropical area near Bombay, uses coconut, sesame seeds, and white poppy seeds in its blend, among other ingredients. And in South India, Sambar masala features red chiles and mustard seeds in its spicy, perspiration-causing mix.

The Global Gourmet's Garam Masala

  • 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cloves
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1. In a heavy, dry skillet, toast separately the coriander, caraway, cardamom and cumin seeds, each for a few seconds, until aromatic. It is best to toast each ingredient separately, as they release their oils at different cooking times.

2. Mix all ingredients together and grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Strain through a fine sieve to remove large pieces. Store in an airtight container. If desired, freeze the mixture to retain freshness.

The Indian Kitchen


Visit the Global Gourmet's India page

Current Kate's Global Kitchen
Kate's Global Kitchen Archive

Kitchen Gypsy


This page originally published as a Global Gourmet Today column in 1998.

Copyright © 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

Arrow to Top

This page modified January 2007

The Global Gourmet
The Global Gourmet®
Main Page


Chinese New Year
Celebrate Chinese &
Lunar New Year

   Clip to Evernote

Bookmark and Share


Twitter: @KateHeyhoe

Search this site:

Advanced Search
Recent Searches


Kate's Global Kitchen
Kate's Books
Cookbook Profiles
Global Destinations
Holiday & Party Recipes
I Love Desserts
On Wine

Caffeine and You Caffeine and You
cooking kids Cooking with Kids
new green basics New Green Basics

Conversions, Charts
   & Substitutions

About the
Global Gourmet®
   Contact Info
   Privacy Statement

Recent Cookbooks

Cooking Italian
175 Home Recipes
4-Hour Chef
Bakery Cookbook
Barefoot Contessa
Bouchon Bakery
Burma: Rivers of Flavor
Cake Mix Doctor
Comfort Food
Craft of Coffee
Crazy Sexy Kitchen
Daily Cookie
Fifty Shades Chicken
French Slow Cooker
Frontera - Rick Bayless
Gluten-Free Quick & Easy
Jerusalem: A Cookbook
Kitchen Science
Lidia's Favorite Recipes
Make-Ahead and Freeze
Modern Milkshakes
Modernist Cuisine
Mystic Cookbook
Paleo Slow Cooking
Picky Palate
Pop Bakery
Practical Paleo
Quick Family Cookbook
Sensational Cookies
Smitten Kitchen
Southern Living Recipes
Sweet Life in Paris
Trader Joe's Vegetarian
True Food
Whole Larder

More Cookbooks


Kitchen & Home


Copyright © 1994-2013,
Forkmedia LLC



cat toys Catnip Toys

Kitchen & Home