What Is Masala and How to Use It

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What Is Masala? If you love to experiment with flavors and spices then you may have heard of masala.

Masala is a powerful combination of Indian herbs and spices that infuse dishes with a sensational flavor? This article will be looking at the Masala spice mix, how to use masala in home-cooked meals, and why you should use Masala more in your cooking.

what is masala spice mix made from

What Is Masala Made Of?

Masala is a cornerstone of Indian cuisine, known for its vibrant flavors and aromatic blend.

Indian spice blends are called masala. At its core, it is a blend of ground spices that can vary based on regional variations and personal preferences.

The process typically begins with whole spices such as black pepper, star anise, cumin, bay leaves, coriander, and many others.

The spices are subsequently lightly toasted in a pan, releasing their essential oils and amplifying their taste. After roasting, the spices are ground into a fine powder.

This powder, known as masala, is then used to impart a rich, deep flavor to Indian dishes and Indian cooking.

The beauty of masala lies in its flexibility – the blend can be adjusted to suit individual tastes, making each masala blend unique.

Is Garam Masala Powder or Paste?

Garam Masala can be used as a powder and in a paste form. Most often, it is used in its powdered form in recipes.

However, if you want to use it in a paste form, you can mix the powder with an equal quantity of water, oil, vinegar, or coconut milk, depending on the flavor profile you’re aiming for.

Using Garam Masala in a paste form is more common in Southern Indian cuisines.

Masala spice

The Origin of Spice Blend

The word ‘ masala,’ a Hindi term now globally recognized, is deeply rooted in the rich culinary traditions of Indian cuisine dating back to ancient times.

This word signifies a spice blend, a hallmark of Indian dishes, and has been integral in food preparation for centuries.

Indian cuisine is known for its symphony of flavors, brought about by carefully blending whole spices.

Roasting and grinding these spices, a technique honed over centuries is crucial to unlocking their full aroma and flavor potential.

How Many Types of Masala Are There?

Here are some of the different types of masala:

  1. Chana Masala: This blend of spices is often used in chickpea curry or chole dishes. It typically includes coriander, turmeric powder, cumin, and pomegranate seeds.
  2. Tandoori Masala: As the name suggests, this masala is used for making tandoori dishes. It includes a mixture of cumin, coriander, cloves, and other spices.
  3. Chicken Tikka Masala: This isn’t a spice blend but a dish that combines spices. The key ingredients usually include garam masala, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and other spices.
  4. Chaat Masala: A tangy spice blend in various Indian street foods or ‘chaat.’ This usually comprises individual spices like cumin, coriander, dried ginger, salt, black pepper, asafoetida, chili powder, and dried mango powder, also known as amchur.
  5. Garam Masala: One of the most commonly used masalas in Indian cuisine, garam masala includes a mix of spices like cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and others.
  6. Sambar Masala: This masala makes Sambar, a popular South Indian dish. It has coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, and other spices.
  7. Pav Bhaji Masala: Used in the famous Mumbai street food Pav Bhaji, this masala includes a mix of spices like fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and others.
  8. Biryani Masala: This masala is used in making biryani, a flavorful rice dish. It includes spices like star anise, mace, nutmeg, and others.
  9. Masala Chai: A traditional Indian drink using a blend known as chai masala. Key ingredients include black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and black peppercorns, boiled with milk and water.

What Does Garam Masala Taste Like?

Indian spices, like turmeric, cumin, coriander, and the renowned Garam Masala blend, are essential in creating the rich, complex flavors that make Indian cuisine unique and delightful.

The taste of this masala depends largely on the combination of spices used, which can include cloves, cumin, cardamom, coriander, and more.

Its warmth and sweetness characterize it, yet it also carries a slight hint of heat.

The complex flavors of Garam Masala are often described as robust and spicy, with a touch of earthiness.

Is Masala Very Hot?

The heat level of masala, a blend brimming with different flavors, can significantly vary depending on the type and amount of spices used.

Traditional Indian masala, a medley of several spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili powder, can have a moderate to high heat level, contributing to its flavor.

Can You Use Garam Masala for Chai Tea?

It’s not recommended to use garam masala for chai tea. The flavor profiles of garam masala and the spices used in chai are quite different.

Garam masala is a mixture of pulverized spices employed in Indian culinary practices, featuring cumin, coriander, cardamom, and cinnamon.

On the other hand, chai spice blends often contain more amounts of cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon.

masala chai spice

What Is the Difference Between Curry and Masala?

Curry refers to various dishes from the Indian subcontinent, typically containing complex combinations of spices or herbs.

Masala, conversely, is a term used to describe a mix of spices in South Asian cuisines.

“Masala mix” refers to this blend of spices flavoring dishes, including curries. So, curry is the final dish, while masala mix is a component used in its preparation.

Check out our recipe for Air Fryer Chicken Curry. It’s delicious and one of the most popular recipes on our site.

masala paste what is masala

Can I Substitute Curry Powder for Masala?

Yes, you can substitute curry powder for masala, particularly garam masala. However, it’s important to note that the flavor profiles of these two spice blends are different.

Garam masala tends to have a more robust and complex flavor than curry powder.

Learn how to make Juicy Baked Curry Chicken Thighs here!

what is masala spice mix

How Do You Store Masala Powder for a Long Time?

  1. Choose the Right Location: Opt for a dry, cool, and dark spot like your pantry or spice cabinet to maintain the flavor and potency of the masala powders.
  2. Use Airtight Containers: Store the masala powder in airtight containers, preferably glass, to prevent exposure to moisture, air, and bugs.
  3. Store in Small Batches: Instead of storing a large quantity at once, keep masala powder in small batches to minimize exposure to air and moisture, thereby keeping it fresh.
  4. Label Your Containers: Mark each container with the date of storage. Replace ground spices every six months as they lose their potency.

What to Serve With Indian Masala?

  • Basmati Rice: A staple in Indian cuisine, basmati rice pairs perfectly with the robust masala flavors. Steamed basmati rice helps to balance the spiciness of the masala mixture.
  • Naan Bread: Another common ingredient in Indian food, naan bread is often served alongside masala dishes. Garlic naan, in particular, adds an extra burst of flavor.
  • Saag Aloo: This hearty dish made from potatoes (aloo) and spinach (saag) provides a flavorful contrast to the spicy masala.
  • Cucumber Raita: Known as salan in northern India, cucumber raita is a refreshing side dish made with grated cucumbers, yogurt, and various spices. It’s a perfect palate cleanser between bites of spicy masala.
  • Onion Bhajis: In India, bhajis are a popular snack. Onion bhajis, in particular, should be considered an essential side dish for chicken tikka masala.
  • Aloo Gobi: A delightful combination of potato and cauliflower, Aloo Gobi pairs well with the earthy flavors of tikka masala.
  • Sambar: This zesty and fiery lentil soup from South India pairs excellently with Chicken Tikka Masala. The blend of lentils, veggies, and spices enhances the taste of the masala flavors.

What Is Masala?

Garam Masala blend is a warm, aromatic mix of spices like cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves, commonly used in Indian cuisine to elevate the flavors.”

It’s an essential ingredient in many dishes found in most Indian pantries.

Using the right combination of spices and storing them in airtight containers is key to preserving the flavor and potency of masala for a longer period.

Whether in a traditional Indian dish or something more modern, masala is essential for a flavorful and unique culinary experience.

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