New words, new things to add to food. All will add more flavor to what we cook!
Let’s check these out one by one.
What is ghee?
Ghee is a type of clarified butter that is commonly used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian cuisine. It is made by simmering butter until the water content evaporates and the milk solids separate from the fat. The milk solids are then strained out, leaving behind a clear, golden liquid that is rich in flavor and has a high smoke point, making it ideal for high-heat cooking.
How is ghee used?
Ghee has a nutty, rich flavor and is often used in Indian dishes such as curries, lentils, and rice dishes. It is also used as a cooking oil and as a spread for breads and toast.
How is ghee made?
To make ghee, unsalted butter is melted over low heat in a heavy-bottomed pan. As the butter melts, the water in the butter evaporates, and the milk solids begin to separate from the fat. The mixture is then simmered, and the milk solids are skimmed off the top as they rise to the surface. This process continues until the liquid turns a deep golden color and has a nutty aroma. The ghee is then strained through a cheesecloth or fine-mesh sieve to remove any remaining milk solids. The resulting liquid is ghee, which can be stored at room temperature for several months.
One unique aspect of ghee is that it is lactose-free and contains fewer milk solids than butter, making it a popular alternative for those who are lactose intolerant or have dairy allergies.
Chana, urad, moong, toor, and masoor are all types of dals or lentils, which are commonly used in Indian and South Asian cuisine.
- Chana dal: also known as Bengal gram, is made from split chickpeas and has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. It is often used in soups, stews, and curries. (Get some here)
- Urad dal: also known as black gram, is made from black lentils with a white interior. It has a creamy texture and is often used to make dal makhani, a popular dish in Indian cuisine. (Get some split, whole bean urad dal here)
- Moong dal: made from mung beans, it has a mild, slightly sweet flavor and is often used in dal and soup recipes. (Get some split or whole bean Mung or moong dal here)
- Toor dal: also known as pigeon peas, is made from split yellow peas and has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. It is often used in South Indian dishes such as sambar and rasam. (Get some here)
- Masoor dal: made from red lentils, it has a mild, earthy flavor and is often used in Indian soups and stews. It cooks quickly and is a good source of protein and fiber – this is also a very easy and fast to cook. (Get some here)
Black gram or Urad dal – Sanjay Acharya, Black gram, CC BY-SA 3.0
What is Asafoetida or Hing?
Asafoetida, also known as “hing” in Hindi, is a spice commonly used in Indian cooking. It is derived from the resin of a plant called Ferula assa-foetida, which is native to Central Asia and the Middle East.
Where is hing used and why?
Asafoetida has a pungent, strong flavor and aroma that is often compared to garlic or onions. It is used in small amounts as a flavor enhancer, and is especially popular in vegetarian dishes where it is used to mimic the umami flavor that is typically found in meat.
In addition to its culinary uses, asafoetida is also used in traditional medicine in India and other parts of Asia. It is believed to have a number of health benefits, such as aiding digestion, reducing bloating and gas, and even acting as a natural remedy for asthma and bronchitis.
One unique aspect of asafoetida is that it must be cooked or sautéed in oil or ghee before it is added to a dish. This helps to release its flavors and aromas and temper its strong taste.
Tadka or Tempering
Tadka, also known as tempering or chaunk, is a technique used in Indian cooking to enhance the flavor of dishes. It involves adding whole spices, such as cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and curry leaves, to hot oil or ghee and allowing them to sizzle and release their flavor and aroma. This mixture is then poured over the cooked dish, adding an extra layer of flavor.
To make tadka, heat a small amount of oil or ghee in a pan over medium-high heat. Add whole spices such as cumin seeds, mustard seeds, or curry leaves to the hot oil and stir until the spices begin to sizzle and pop. This process is called “tempering” and helps to release the essential oils and flavor compounds in the spices.
Once the spices are fragrant and have released their flavors into the oil, remove the pan from heat and pour the mixture over the dish you wish to flavor. This technique is often used to finish lentil dishes such as dal or soups, as well as vegetables, rice dishes, and curries.
Tadka can also be customized to suit your preferences. For example, you can add chopped onions, garlic, or ginger to the hot oil along with the spices for added flavor. Some recipes also call for ground spices, such as turmeric or coriander powder, to be added to the tadka mixture for additional depth of flavor.
Variations to tadka
- South Indian tadka: In South India, tadka is often made with black mustard seeds, curry leaves, and dried red chili peppers. It is also common to add a small amount of urad dal (split black lentils) and chana dal (split chickpeas) to the hot oil, which are fried until golden brown and add a nutty flavor to the tadka.
- Punjabi tadka: In Punjabi cuisine, tadka is often made with cumin seeds, whole coriander seeds, and dried red chili peppers. It is also common to add chopped onions, ginger, and garlic to the hot oil, which are fried until golden brown and add a rich, savory flavor to the tadka.
- Bengali tadka: In Bengali cuisine, tadka is often made with a combination of cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, and fennel seeds. It is also common to add a small amount of panch phoron, a Bengali spice blend made with equal parts of cumin seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds, mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds.
- Maharashtrian tadka: In Maharashtrian cuisine, tadka is often made with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and asafoetida. It is also common to add grated coconut and peanuts to the hot oil, which are fried until golden brown and add a nutty flavor to the tadka.
- Gujarati tadka: In Gujarati cuisine, tadka is often made with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and asafoetida. It is also common to add a small amount of jaggery (unrefined cane sugar) and tamarind paste to the hot oil, which create a sweet and sour flavor in the tadka.
These are just a few examples of the regional variations of tadka in Indian cuisine. Depending on the dish and the region, different spices and ingredients may be used in the tadka to create unique and flavorful dishes.