Tuesday, 18 November 2014

On Food,Gods' Own Garam Masala-6

Garam Masala is actually the collective name for a clutch of frgrant spices considered in Ayurveda to be Garam (hot) and grown down south . The main among them are pepper( kali mirch), cardamom(Ilayachi), clove( Lavang), bayleaves(Tejpatta), cinnamon( dalchini), Zeera(cummin), dried ginger(Sonth), nutmeg(Jayphal) and mace(Javitri).
Bayleaves are mentioned by Sushrut and Vagbhatt as Tvak, used to add fragrance to cooked rice. India has long been exporting bayleaves, pepper and ginger to Roman Europe and Syria. By the 15th Century the nobility in Europe had developed a huge crush on these and according to the Portugese trade logs , in just one trip a ship from India had carried 1500 tonnes of pepper, 28 tonnes of dried ginger, 8 tonnes of cinnamon and 7 tonnes of cloves to Portugal.
Down south Garam Masala also became a part of holy foods cooked for gods within temple premises. Thus the fabled Laddoos of Thirupati, made fragrant with cardamoms, and the enorous Iddlis offered at the Devraj Swami Vishnu temple at Kanchi spiced with cummin, pepper and dried ginger. In Orissa the holy Bhog prepared for Lord Jagannath features special Khichri which uses Gram Masala liberally as seasoning . To smell the food is to half taste it goes the saying, so to desist from smelling the food before offering it to the Lord, the cooks tie thick scarves over the lower half of their faces.
Even the Buddhists and Jains use Gram Msalas. The buddhists monks began their meals with rice sprinkled over with salt and diried ginger powder . The Jains who eat nothing grown underground for fear of killing any life forms adhering to the legumes, relent about sun dried ginger . In the first century of the Roman calendar the Portugese traders had sent a large consignment of ginger weighing some 28 tonnes to Portugal.
Ginger has always been a part of north Indian cuisine but the Moghuls popularised the Garam masala as we know it, up north . Soon it became a steady part of non vegetarian cuisine in various permutations and combinations . The Moghuls also introduced the art of making ginger Murabbas and sweet chutneys flavored with ginger.
(Next- the Chilly)


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