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Homemade curry powder


chappie
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mongo, arguments by analogy always fail because you're never talking about the thing itself, but always using something similar to the thing itself. They always take a little charity.

I don't want to give the impression that I think packets of pre-ground spices or mixes of spices are bad. In my own pantry I have many pre-ground spices and chiles. For some of the more important items that are easy to keep in their whole form, such as coriander seed, cumin, cardamon, clove, chiles, etc, I also have them in whole form. Depending on the circumstances, I'll use one rather than the other.

My problem is more with the idea suggested by your original critique that exalting the ideal of food from scratch is wrong. I don't think anyone suggested that it was evil to use pre-ground, but I do think:

1) You don't save much time by getting pre-ground

2) It's cheaper to grind your own

3) You can keep your spices and mixes fresher by grinding your own

4) You can taylor it over time to your own tastes

5) You're sustaining a technology/knowledge

Also, one of the problems in the US is there really aren't that many cities where the turnover, even in Indian grocers, on spices is that good. And you often have to buy relatively large bags, like a cup or more, at a time of spice mixes, meaning that people like me who make Indian food occasionally, rather than daily or often, have spices sitting around getting stale in the pantry.

PS If it was possible, I'd probably grind my own wheat, and I know I'd grind and nixtamalize my own maize. And, I don't eat or keep mayo that much, but I do make my own when I need it most of the time. Mayo's really not that hard to make with a cuisinart. I'm not saying that everyone can or should do this, but I think keeping it as an ideal is a good thing because it's not unrelated to quality.

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mongo, arguments by analogy always fail because you're never talking about the thing itself, but always using something similar to the thing itself.  They always take a little charity.

i'm suggesting that there are better analogies possible. in the world of italian cuisine it might possibly include drying your own oregano or using specific kinds of tomatoes or anchovies and not others. the pasta sauce analogy works in indian cuisine but not with ground spices. it works with pre-bottled sauces and curry pastes (which i saw for the first time when i came to the u.s--made by patak's, an english company). even if you cook a chicken curry, say, with commercial spice blends you still need to know how long to fry onions, when to add ginger-garlic paste, how much longer to fry that, when to add the spices, to figure out the dividing line between sauteeing them enough and burning them, what to do to recover if you do burn them, when to add the meat, how long to cook the meat before adding tomatoes/water etc. etc. a curry powder blend that you know and like can become a part of your repertoire just as much as any other powdered spice.

I don't want to give the impression that I think packets of pre-ground spices or mixes of spices are bad.  In my own pantry I have many pre-ground spices and chiles.  For some of the more important items that are easy to keep in their whole form, such as coriander seed, cumin, cardamon, clove, chiles, etc, I also have them in whole form.  Depending on the circumstances, I'll use one rather than the other. 

soitenly, soitenly (now i'll be doing groucho marx all weekend), but i think if you find yourself making your own curry powder to emulate an eggplant curry made by tyler florence you might want to stop and think about what you're doing.

My problem is more with the idea suggested by your original critique that exalting the ideal of food from scratch is wrong.

i can see how you might have got this suggestion from my posts but it isn't what i intended (for what that's worth). i'm suggesting that cooking with commercial spice mixes is not that far from cooking from "scratch" (which has to be the most unappetizing cooking image there is).

authenticity is a chimerical thing--and the problem with getting too invested in it (and this is not something necessarily mapped on to quality) is that people lose sight of the fact that the things/people being marked as "authentic" are themselves changing/evolving/dynamic.

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authenticity is a chimerical thing--and the problem with getting too invested in it (and this is not something necessarily mapped on to quality) is that people lose sight of the fact that the things/people being marked as "authentic" are themselves changing/evolving/dynamic.

Just to be clear, if you go back and look at this thread http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=48119&st=0 I think you'll see I'm not confused on that point, mongo. And it's a good one.

I'm more concerned about maintaining knowledges/technologies, especially as they relate to quality and diversity.

But I certainly wouldn't ever want a person to avoid ever making Indian food because it seemed overwhelming to make their own masalas.

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My ex-MIL (from India), who came to the States about 6 months ago and left India for the first time in her 56 years...uses commercially ground spices.

I grind my own spices generally, except for Garam Masala simply because I found one that is exceptionally good.

Anyway, she cooks some good stuff. She doesn't toil over the stove roasting and grinding. She makes dhals and vegetable dishes that will make your mouth water.

I think the whole point of the matter is...It isn't bad to use pre-ground spices. It is a personal preference.

I think the from scratch argument is very relative. From scratch...as in growing and grinding your own wheat..or from scratch in that you brought the produce home, sliced, diced and cooked?

If it makes your taste buds happy, use it.

--Jenn

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I certainly would not advocate go and buying ground spices from your supermarket (aka McCormick) and using them as convenience shortcuts in making indian food at home.

However, I think it is reasonable to say that if you live in a community with Indian groceries and the like that have heavy turnover of this type of thing, pre ground spice mixes make a lot of sense.

Exactly.

And frankly, lots of recipes given to me by indian friends generally involve: One box Shan Achar Gosht curry mix...

That said, I would love to try to make Achar Gosht from scratch (I'd love a recipe, if anyone has it) but what the hell is papain anyway?? The box just contains a combination of spices I would have to mix myself anyway. So long as its fresh, I don't see the difference.

(yes yes, I know it's from pakistan, not india, its just I have the box right here in front of me so that's what leaps to mind and you will have just to put up with an imperfect example.)

By the way, Lebanese people do the same thing. My grandmother, rest her soul, made her own olive oil, pomogranate juice, yogurt etc etc but she went to the souk for her spice mix. It was the same as what she could grind at home, but if she bought it fresh she couldn't see the point, and the guy had much higher tunover than what she could maintain at home.

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It's rare to come across Papain in spice mixes but this is an Achar Gosth( pickle meat) so it would help in tenderizing the meat.

If you want to make one from scratch, use the same ingredients and some meat tenderizer.

I doubt that you have access to Raw papaya which is what I use.

I fry by the heat of my pans. ~ Suresh Hinduja

http://www.gourmetindia.com

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years ago I grew a plant that was called a curry plant. I know that curry was an amalgam of different spices, but this plant DID smell and taste like curry powder.

I grew some of that last year, too. A small bushy plant with spiky, silvery leaves and yellow-ochre yarrow-like flowers. Didn't survive our winter (Zone 5). As far as I can tell, it was Helichrysum angustifolium or maybe H. italicum. Never used it in cooking but the crushed leaves did smell something like curry powder. However, it reportedly has no place in Indian cooking. The green curry (or kari) leaves used in some Indian dishes are from the unrelated Murraya koenigii, a small tree.

As for the rest of this discussion, I've been following it with interest as I was always under the impression that the spices for Indian curries were blended and ground for each dish, which is what I've always done. (I have a tin of curry powder in my pantry but use it only for Chinese and French dishes.) Colour me disabused!

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There are two curry plants:

http://www-ang.kfunigraz.ac.at/~katzer/eng...l?Murr_koe.html

I've grown the herb with great success here in the NW. I think it has a somewhat curryish aroma, but not near the intensity or the interest of the curry leaves.

btw, I used to think the curry plant in my herb garden was the same as the curry plant that Indians use until Trillium let me know here on eGullet. I just thought mine needed to grow up to get the big leaves.....

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420, dude. Speaking of which....My mom's boyfriend when I was growing up grew it betwixt the corn in our garden. I blame him for my girth. I just couldn't stop munching that corn....Luckily, though, the hanging pot plants in our extra bedroom and the repulsive smell has kept me from drugs ever since.

Back to curry: why do pot-smoking hippies smell like curry?

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Back to curry: why do pot-smoking hippies smell like curry?

I've never really thought of patchouli as smelling like curry. I'll certainly think about it next time. We still get to smell it now and then here in Boulder - it's one of those way-back machine things I love about this place. The REALLY stunning thing is that the second paid hit on google is from Eckerd Drugs, selling Jovan Spray Cologne Fresh Patchouli for $13.99.

Going against the grain here, I prefer to grow, dry and extract my own patchouli, rather than buy it from the local grocery in a package, even if that's what the hippie housewives do in the old country.

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the main reason i mix my own masalas is that is helps me develop my general skill with seasoning. on the other hand, i suppose i wouldn't need any skill with seasoning if i'd just open a box of readymade. :raz:

actually, that's not totally true. the main reason i mix and grind my own spices is a reaction to the not-so-great convenience foods of my american childhood. i don't think i ate a fresh green bean, for example, until i was seventeen. i regularly use MDH chaat masala; but while my rational side believes in the crinkly silver liner, my superstitious side is still troubled by the ease and convenience. i mean, if i'm already cooking with readymade spices--why not just boil a cube steak in a can of cream of mushroom soup? :shock:

Also, one of the problems in the US is there really aren't that many cities where the turnover, even in Indian grocers, on spices is that good. And you often have to buy relatively large bags, like a cup or more, at a time of spice mixes, meaning that people like me who make Indian food occasionally, rather than daily or often, have spices sitting around getting stale in the pantry.

luckily this isn't a problem in portland anymore, xmsg! you can buy small quantities of cheap spices (and all the readymades you want :biggrin: ) at India 4U, for example, on hawthorne. the turnover's great.

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Back to curry: why do pot-smoking hippies smell like curry?

I've never really thought of patchouli as smelling like curry. I'll certainly think about it next time. We still get to smell it now and then here in Boulder - it's one of those way-back machine things I love about this place. The REALLY stunning thing is that the second paid hit on google is from Eckerd Drugs, selling Jovan Spray Cologne Fresh Patchouli for $13.99.

Going against the grain here, I prefer to grow, dry and extract my own patchouli, rather than buy it from the local grocery in a package, even if that's what the hippie housewives do in the old country.

"now and then"? i've had to leave stores for fear of being overcome by the fumes.

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mine have mostly been everest brand.  i'll have to check out MDH.

MDH is really quite good. The best I have to say that I swear by are Roopak's masalas, my whole family uses them quite a bit and they are just fantastic.

Wow, what an engaging thread this has been to read. As far as I'm concerned pre-ground spices and packaged masalas are fine as long as they taste good(If they taste good they are more than fine).

I use Everest jal jeera masala, Laxmi Brand Rajma Masala and chat masala amongst others very often. Pre-made masalas definitely don't make instant indian food. As Mongo basically said you still have to know how to cook to use them.

Monica, you mentioned Roopak brand. The Indo-Pak store I shop at most often carries this brand. Its the ones in the see through plastic bottles, right? Well, anyway, I have been very curious about this brand. Now that I have your reccomendation I definitely want to try them. Which ones do you think are good to start with?

Maybe we could have a thread on the India forum for pre-packaged masala reccomendations and experimentations....no?

Thanks

Edward

Edward Hamann

Cooking Teacher

Indian Cooking

edhamann@hotmail.com

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I have tasted and examined the ingredients of quite a few garam masala mixes and they were all highly deficient in cardamom. And yet every recipe I see for garam masala includes plenty of the stuff. From the perspective of one spice, I see self-grinders/powder separatists treating themselves kindly and commercial entities cutting some sharp economical corners.

I'm not caught up in a quest for authenticity nor do I seek convenience. Just give me some bloody cardamom.

I haven't examined/tasted every garam masala there is, though. Roopaks sounds like something worth looking into.

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I have tasted and examined the ingredients of quite a few garam masala mixes and they were all highly deficient in cardamom. And yet every recipe I see for garam masala includes plenty of the stuff. From the perspective of one spice, I see self-grinders/powder separatists treating themselves kindly and commercial entities cutting some sharp economical corners.

I'm not caught up in a quest for authenticity nor do I seek convenience. Just give me some bloody cardamom.

I haven't examined/tasted every garam masala there is, though. Roopaks sounds like something worth looking into.

I agree with your perceptions scott. except for me - the commercial preparations i've tasted have been extremely liberal with asafoetida and turmeric. (usually sambar, dal or veg mixes)

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mine have mostly been everest brand.   i'll have to check out MDH.

MDH is really quite good. The best I have to say that I swear by are Roopak's masalas, my whole family uses them quite a bit and they are just fantastic.

Wow, what an engaging thread this has been to read. As far as I'm concerned pre-ground spices and packaged masalas are fine as long as they taste good(If they taste good they are more than fine).

I use Everest jal jeera masala, Laxmi Brand Rajma Masala and chat masala amongst others very often. Pre-made masalas definitely don't make instant indian food. As Mongo basically said you still have to know how to cook to use them.

Monica, you mentioned Roopak brand. The Indo-Pak store I shop at most often carries this brand. Its the ones in the see through plastic bottles, right? Well, anyway, I have been very curious about this brand. Now that I have your reccomendation I definitely want to try them. Which ones do you think are good to start with?

Thanks

Edward

Did you see this yet Monica?

Edward Hamann

Cooking Teacher

Indian Cooking

edhamann@hotmail.com

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Sorry, just saw this thread, haven't been active on eG lately due to personal reasons.

I'm at work right now but I'll post a few mixes when I get home, including the one with coconut in the mix. It's a Gujarati style blend, if memory serves. Have to look at my notes.

Soba

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Hokay, as promised, here are some of the blends that I like re garam masala. Proportions are not given, just mix and match to your taste.

Gujarati style: grated fresh coconut, sesame seeds, black mustard seeds, saffron, green and white peppercorns, green cardamom pods, cumin seeds and nutmeg kernels.

Bengali style: chili pods, sesame seeds, green/black and white peppercorns, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cassia leaves*, minced or ground ginger

1a: dried chili pods, pomegranate seeds, saffron threads, mace, green/black and white peppercorns, cloves, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cassia leaves*

1b: mace, white and black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, green cardamom pods, ajwain seeds, nutmeg kernels and cassia leaves*

1c: dried chili pods (about 3 or 4), white peppercorns, black cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cumin seeds, cassia leaves*, fennel seeds.

*Substitute bay leaves if you can't get dried cassia leaves.

Soba

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Hi Soba,

Would be very interested to know where you got your Bengali garam masala mix?

My own interest in “Bengali” cooking is historical and social, attempting to understand its evolution between 1860-1960 among the Rarh gentry living along the Ganga between Mayapur, Nadia, and Harinabhi, South 24-Parganas. This narrow ambit anchors my pitiful intellect, education, first-hand experience and knowledge about India, helping me probe into difficult [ to grasp, for me] issues of “authenticity” and “cultural appropriation.”

From this perspective, some of the arguments and discourse in this thread appear to possess, in addition to their many merits, a generational or evolutionary aspect that is quite striking to me; there is, additionally, another interesting social development. Both are relevant to the curry powder issue. Please pardon me for interjecting my ponderous, half-formed thoughts into this forum.

First, the temporal or generational, depicting a scene from the very early sixties. Even a lower middle class family like ours would avail themselves of a part time maid who would come early in the morning and wet-grind [on a flat stone] the day’s spices [then wash the floors]. The spices were: whole turmeric and whole red chiles, both pre-soaked, fresh root ginger, whole mustard seed, and a mixture of whole cumin, coriander, black peppercorns. These would be artistically arranged on a small wooden dish, that the cook, a female member of the family, would handle quite like an artist’s palette.

Note that all the lunchtime dishes included these ground spices, and no other; except for cassia leaves, asafoetida and whole spices for tempering or ‘phoron’. The ‘dinner’ entrée would be cooked as well after the lunch entrees were done , and would usually involve the all the above except mustard, and would include in addition, a few whole pieces of the very expensive garam masala, namely cloves [2-3], green cardamom [ditto] and cassia bark. I have never seen garam masala used powdered in my whole extended family/clan.

By the late sixties, red chile and turmeric powder gradually entered our kitchens. Heretofore, while many of us lived cheek-by-jowl with “Marwari” families, who used a huge array of hand-pounded [note, not wet-ground] whole, dry spices. By this time, hired help also had become less willing to grind daily the hard turmeric and the chile that stung the skin. My sisters-in-law living with their nuclear families in various places in India made the switch to powdered spices much sooner and with relief, but in the ancestral seat [in rural Bengal] only coriander was the only other spice able to make its way in. I do not know the situation since 1985, but would be surprised if it did not reflect the good Dr. Jones’s experiences.

Here is where the generational/evolutionary movement makes itself felt. Whereas even powdered garam masala would not be quite ‘authentic’ by my lights, the experience of my sisters-in-law probably reflects the adaptive response evident in Mongo’s mother’s kitchen, which then becomes his birthright of taste and authenticity. [Dear Doctor, pray do pardon me if I interpolate too much and so presume on your privacy.] And, this is why I am curious as to where you found your ideas for the ‘Bengali’ garam masala.

If my forum friends will indulge me a bit longer, the paragraphs above help me explore some of the issues raised in the thread about Indian cooking teachers, that deeply trouble me. I hope that the forum will concur that there is not the slightest malice or ill-will on my part when I confess to being a little upset [my problem entirely] when, say Edward, in all innocence and enthusiasm, declares himself to be a teacher of Bengali cuisine. I would be much more comfortable with his describing himself as a teacher of the cooking of modern Bangladesh or Sylhet, (narrow-casting as I have done in my characterization of my native foodway as that of the Rarh gentry) to avoid exceptionally hurtful issues of cultural appropriation that I hope will die a natural death in a generation. It is similar to the appropriation by East Pakistan of the term ‘Bangladesh’ which transforms the common birthright of all Bengalis to a particular and circumscribed ‘ownership’.

Food is a such powerful stabilizer of identity, especially to immigrants, that a forum of eclectic foodies is especially fertile for issues of cultural appropriation, that I find subconsciously very painful but have neither the intellect nor learning to quite express. The best I can would be to say that for many ‘natives’, ‘tickets’ are strictly one-way, that there is a sense of having paid undefined ‘dues [and then some]; there is that inchoate yet gnawing unease when one observes an influx of those with ‘round-trip tickets.’ Please, someone with good English, help me out of this mess of syntax and metaphor! Also, sincere apologies if I have offended anyone.

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Dear Doctor,

Having read your arguments on 'authenticity' with great interest, wonder whether you have strong feelings/notions on the matter of cultural appropriation? Does this idea ever raise its head in your professional/academic ventures with respect to food?

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