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Old 10-14-2004, 10:03 AM   #11
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hi Yakuta and WayneT

It is very helpful to me to be able to learn from real people instead of having to rely only on cookbooks. I certainly didn't intend to start a flame war and I appreciate the postings from each of you. That said, here are some comments...

I only started a serious attempt at Indian cooking about 2 years ago. I am primarily (but not exclusively) vegetarian (just personal preference - not based on ethics/religion/health concerns). Since Indian cuisine has such a rich tradition of non-meat cooking it seemed logical to try to learn about it. (I won't say "master" - that would be hubris.)

NYC is home to so many groups it was easy for me to find stores that cater to the Indian residents so I can get many spices and other ingredients specific to Indian cooking.

A good approach is to make two make two spice powders if you like Indian food and sometimes want to experiment with it.
The most meaningful translation, to me, of masala is simply "spice blend". I realize there are infinite variations but it seems to me, having collected/read a lot of "recipes" (from 'net searches and cookbooks) that they vary along 3 basic dimensions - preponderance of "warm" spices (like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, allspice), preponderance of "cool" spices (especially coriander and cumin) and spices/ingredients that give "heat" (chilis, ginger root, etc). Within these continua is a wealth of subtle variations in ingredients, proportions, preparation methods and cooking styles. I usually have a "warm" masala and a "cool" masala and I'm still struggling with getting the "heat" right (I like a touch but personally don't like really hot food).

Yakuta - I have (and have used) all the spices you mentioned except one (star anise) plus one you didn't (ajwan seed). I've never used black cardamom in masalas but it is one of the whole spices I use when I make peach chutney. I was surprised, however, to see you use star anise and black cumin in your garam masala - I thought "classic" garam masala was a blend of cinnamon, cardamom, clove and black pepper.

I hope you both (and all the other great cooks I found in this forum) will continue to post your tips, techniques, recipes and thoughts on Indian (and other Asian) cuisines. I've learned an incredible amount in a short time just "lurking" and browsing. Everyone is great about answering my questions too.

Big thanks to both of you!

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Old 10-14-2004, 11:56 AM   #12
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Hi Sub No flames around me - I can take a few hits :-)

Yes garam masala actually contains most of the ingredients I mentioned. It's rather complex in it's true form. I left out ajwain along with dill and kalonji (onion seeds) because most folks use those as a whole.

Ajwain is believed to be easy on the stomach and is normally paired with Dahl preparation or in pakoras (which are made with chickpea or chana flour).

Most of the tips on spices I shared are acquired from my uncle. I spent a lot of time with him and my aunt. He is an accomplished cook (has been a head chef for some of the very well recognized Indian restaurants in New York, Houston, Atlanta etc.) and is the one who drew me towards the entire field of cooking in general. Other tips I have absorbed are from my late grandma who was just like all other grandmas - great cook who knew how to make mind blowing dishes with the simplest of ingredients.

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Old 10-14-2004, 12:30 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Yakuta
great cook who knew how to make mind blowing dishes with the simplest of ingredients.
that's my ultimate culinary goal
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Old 10-14-2004, 01:09 PM   #14
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I think Yakuta's earlier posting was a little unclear as to whether Y. is saying not to use curry paste at all or whether it is not much use to store them.

I think this where Wayne took exception feeling that Y's post was a knock on curry pastes in general. I did not take it that way....

>>> I would ask to steer clear of any curry paste even creating your own and storing it.

It is not clear, whether Y is saying to steer clear of all curry pastes in general. Or whether to not bother to store them.

It seems that Y. definitely likes to make at least two basic powders and then add from there. I think Y thinks this is easier then making a certain type of paste.


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