Oct 27, 2016

Nepali Garam Masala

Nepali Garam Masala recipe szechuan peppercorns timur sichuan nepal

From the Himalayan nation of Nepal comes this version of the classic spice mix garam masala. Garam means heating in the Ayurvedic sense and masala means spices. What makes this recipe for garam masala unique is the use of Himalayan grown spices like zingy timur (Szechuan peppercorns), fragrant cassia leaves, and aromatic brown cardamoms. Try this simple to make spice mix to add some Nepalese flavor to any savory dish!

Nepali Garam Masala recipe szechuan peppercorns timur sichuan nepal
Don't let the use of timur or the Himalayan variety of Szechuan peppercorns in this recipe put you off. You most certainly can use the easier to find Chinese Szechuan peppercorns in place of the Nepali variety called timur. Let me tell you, the Chinese Szechuan peppercorns pack about half the wallop and pungency that the Nepali variety called timur does. This recipe has just the right proportion of black peppercorns to Szechuan peppercorns to give you a mild sensation of what the Chinese call ma la (translates as 'numbing heat').  I choose not to dry roast my garam masala as I usually fry it when adding to a dish but I've added directions on how to traditional dry roast the spices on the stove top or use an oven. Either way make this spice mix to add a bit of traditional Nepali zest and zing to any curry or chutney!

1 TBS cumin seeds/jeera
1 TBS coriander seeds/dhania
1 TBS black peppercorns/kali mirch
2 tsp green cardamoms/elaichi
2 tsp black cardamoms/kali elaichi
1 inch piece of cassia bark/dalchini, broken into small pieces (or cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp cloves/laung
1/2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns/timur
1 cassia leaf/tej patta, cut into small pieces
Do not dry roast but mix in afterwards-
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg/jaiphal
1/2 tsp ground dried ginger/soonth

Here's what to do:
For raw/unroasted garam masala- 
Coarsely grind all spices until roughly the texture of coffee grounds. Traditionally a mortar and pestle or sil batta was used to get this texture. Garam masala is not supposed to be like the finely ground powdery stuff you see sold at stores. To get the traditional 'coffee grounds' texture we're looking for use the 'pulse' button on your mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder until you get the desired results. If you are using a coffee grinder or small mixie jar you might want to grind each spice separately in batches to get a consistent texture. Breaking the cassia bark (or cinnamon sticks) into smaller pieces before grinding helps also. Store in an airtight container out of sunlight.

Two methods to dry roast garam masala-

1) Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan or tawa for 7-10 minutes.
2) Dry roast spices one at a time in batches, or toss all spices in and stir frequently until spices give off a fragrant aroma. Do not dry roast grated nutmeg or dried ginger.
3) Allow to cool completely. Grind coarsely (including grated nutmeg and dried ginger) using pulse button in mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder.  Store in an airtight container out of sunlight.
(The problem with this traditional method is that the temperature isn't really even over a tawa on a gas flame and some spices may scorch while others remain unroasted. Cumin usually roasts faster than the other spices and when burned has an unpleasant bitter flavor.  Roasting spices separately reduces the risk of scorching but is tedious. Why do South Asians still do use traditional tawa method? Because most South Asians do not have any sort of oven in their homes.)

Fast & easy oven method-
1) Preheat oven to 220F/100C.
2) Spread all spices (except grated nutmeg and dried ginger) over 13 inch by 9 inch baking pan or cookie sheet. Bake spices for 10 minutes.
3) Allow to cool completely and grind coarsely (including mace, nutmeg, or allspice) using pulse button in mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder.  Store in an airtight container out of sunlight.

Here's photo of a beautiful Nepali sunset I took from my roof yesterday evening.
There's Mt Macchapuchre on the right and Annapurna III on the left in the parting clouds at dusk.