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Inside Indian

Black Cardamom, a particularly valued spice in Indian cooking, is related to the ginger family.
The whole pods can be used to flavor dishes like pilafs, stews, and birianis, but the pods need to be removed and discarded before serving. Inside the pods are black seeds that, if fresh, should be slightly sticky. Black cardamom is one of the treasured spices in garam masala, a spice mixture used in a variety of Indian dishes. Cardoz likes black cardamom with lamb. “The musky, earthy, gaminess of the lamb repeats itself in the black cardamom.”

Amchoor, a seemingly Middle Eastern version of MSG, is a dried mango powder used throughout the kitchen to improve flavor. Deep yellow in color, it is made from unripe mangos that have been left to dry in the sun. It has a fruity, sweet-tart taste and is particularly good in marinades, chutneys, meats, and vegetarian dishes.


Asafetida is a pungent spice that smells of sulphur or rotten eggs but surprisingly enhances food flavor, leaving a garlic and onion complexity. It is a harvested sap that comes as a brown resinous clump and enhances all types of bean, rice, and vegetarian dishes. “Asafetida needs to be used spar- ingly, as too much can be very overpowering."

Fresh curry leaves are extremely aromatic and have a warm, citrusy flavor. They are best stored wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. The leaves can be used in chutneys, marinades, or slow-cooked stews or bloomed in hot oil until they release their aromatic essence.

Kokum is the fruit of an evergreen tree and is about the size of a plum. The fruit is dried whole or split and can be bought as a paste. The taste is fruity and sweet with a decided balsamic flavor to it. The dried rinds have the sticky softness of a Fruit Roll-Up. Use with vegetarian dishes and seafood.

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