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Indian Spice


ElsieD
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I recently read an article about food trends for 2011. One item was a spice blend called (something like) vendaudam??? It is an Indian spice mix that has, as one of it's components, onion. Apparently, it is the next spice that chefs will be using a lot of this year. (Or so the article said.) I actually found a place that sells it but then........I lost the article. To make matters worse, I can't remember where I got the article or the exact name of the spice. I have spent a lot of internet time trying to track this down but have not have any luck. All I could find was vendhayam and vengayam and both referred to onion and nothing else. Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

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VADAKAM/ VADAGAM is the actual Tamil name for an ancient spice mixture that is the distinctive signature of the MUDALIAR community.You can read about them and their cooking below. The French-Tamil derivation of VADAKAM is VADOUVAN, now allegedly finding favor in the USA.

http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/living/save-what-you-savour

"Though Mudaliar cuisine has now become a medley of different gastronomical genres, there are still some ingredients that have survived in their original form down the ages. Take the vadakam, for instance. It is a spice mix which no true-blue Mudaliar household can do without. A kind of tempering ball, it is made with garlic, onions, mustard seeds and curry leaves in a long-drawn process. Once all the ingredients have been blended to perfection, the mix is dried in the sun everyday until all the moisture is absorbed."

I have been told that various types of citrus leaves are also part of the mixture in some localities, but have no personal experience.

Aharam – Traditional Cuisine of Tamil Nadu by Sabita Radhakrishna

http://pedatha.com/2009/10/25/sabita-radhakrishna-on-mummys-potato-dill-fry/

VADAGAM:

http://lakshmiammal.wordpress.com/2006/12/14/vadagam-a-must-have-in-our-home/

part of an excellent blog Compare it with the "Vadouvan" version, one of which appears in Fat-free Vegan Magazine.

See also for recipes & detailed explanation:

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Yes!!! It is vadouvan. Now that I have the spelling, I was able to find the original article which includes info on where to buy this. I also intend to check out the references in your posts. They will, no doubt, enlighten me. Oddly, I went to an Indian grocery store back when I first read about this ingredient and they claimed never to have heard of it. Perhaps it is not used in India itself? Many, many thanks for your help.

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Oddly, I went to an Indian grocery store back when I first read about this ingredient and they claimed never to have heard of it. Perhaps it is not used in India itself?

Or maybe they were just not from the right region of India :)

As a side note, I find it very amusing that certain spices are "fashionable". Yeah yeah, I know there are food "trends" nowadays, still tickles me though. I guess I am unfashionable in all areas!

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As Jenni rightly observes, India is as large as Western Europe, minus Russia. An "Indian" store, like the term "Indian" food, is as meaningful, or not, as "European" food, Continental food, or an "European" store in a distant land. The proprietors would tend to specialize in their own regional specialities.

Vadouvan, as such, is a French derivative term of an Indian term related to VADI, dried paste of pulses, variously flavored. Pondicherry French-Tamil cuisine is a unique style, now gaining notoriety.

In the Tamil country & the South there are MANY VADAGAMS, many dried pastes used for long storage. Not all are legume based and all have different uses.

The Mudaliar community specializes in VADAGAMS that are used to flavor main dishes, vegetarian or not. These are not TEMPERING VADAGAMS, tempering being a pan-Indian process, where a flavoring, e.g. whole spice like cumin, mustard, asafetida, chopped garlic, enter hot oil, before boiled legumes, or lightly cooked vegetables are added to infuse them with flavor.

Thalippu VADAGAM is ONLY employed for tempering traditional dishes.

It would be almost IMPOSSIBLE to purchase VADAGAM of the MUDALIAR style or the THALIPPU VADAGAM, just as it is [was?] impossible to purchase genuine BOTTLE MASALA or GOAN TONAK or many things prepared solely at the COMMUNITY level in India or in SPECIFIC LOCALITIES. Not even in India, and no one outside those areas have even heard of these special products, least of all traders, who are poorly educated.

Vadouvan is merely another trend created by food writers here, who tell people, This is what is supposed to be delicious this season, and people dare not disagree.

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Fascinating.

http://www.seriouseats.com/cgi-bin/mte/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=30&limit=20&search=vadouvan&sa.x=33&sa.y=13

This is where I first read about it. So are you saying it's not worth trying? I mean, I use purchased curry pastes also but I recognize that someone who makes their curry paste from scratch will have a different end product than what I buy in a jar. However, that doesn't lessen my enjoyment of the dish. Thank you for your posts. I have read through them and your references and found them very interesting.

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I did not say that at all! It might be very delicious in its OWN right, a tweaked creation of some excellent chef, e.g. Herme's pineapple chutney. We have a pineapple chutney in Bengal, and when I worked out Herme's flavors in my head, they did not add up, just as MY absolutely traditional one would be quite unpleasing to him & 99% of European tastes. That, precisely, is why we have the phenomenonof restaurant cuisine in "Indian", "Chinese" restaurants.

There was an Indian restaurant owner who ran his operation with Hispanic cooks, as many excellent restaurants do. [One of the best Iranian restaurants in D.C. is the creation of a Latino chef, lauded by expatriate Iranians, the ultimate achievement!] He taught them his recipes which they perfectly executed for years. One day they invited him to a meal, with the same Indian dishes interpreted to their tastes. He was completely blown away by the use of huge amounts of ketchup, and a totally alien flavor profile!

Returning to Vadouvan, you might be interested to pursue the cuisine of the Tamil-French in Pondicherry. It is so little known. Chandan-nagar in Bengal remained an anomalous French outpost late into the British Empire but no studies have been done on any unique fusion cuisine. I do know something of the zamindar cooking but those arts are truly dead.

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