You can live a whole life in India and never discover all different type of spices of the country. Why? Simply because spices are for India what cheese and wine are for France: countless and essential!
Apart from the most used and common type of spices each of the 29 states of India has its own spices to give specific taste and flavor to its own traditional recipes. Some of these spices like curry leaves and tamarind are quite unknown for the rest of the world but really famous in India. Let’s discover today which of these spices makes Pondicherry’s cooking proud!
VADOUVAN, a mix of spices born in the state of Pondicherry
You might know what a “masala” is for Indians: a blend of spices and other ingredients which will add flavors and taste to a dish, creating a harmony with the meat or vegetables cooked. Unfortunately it is commonly seen in western countries as full of turmeric powder and strong enough to cover the taste of any chicken or fish you tried to cook.
Vadouvan (French derivative of a masala known as Vadavam, Vadagam, or Vadakam) is a specific pondicherian blend of spice mixing some classical French ingredients (shallots, onions, garlic) and traditional Tamil ones (fenugreek, curry leaves, mustard seeds, pepper, chili, cumin sometimes turmeric and coriander). It is a masala that can be used to reveal and enhance the taste of a dish but never spoil it. The specificity of Vadouvan is also the toasting of spices and a sweet taste. You can use it to cook meat, chicken, fish or simple vegetables. That kind of dish cooked with a blend of spices (a masala) is called a curry!
A curry is made from culinary inspiration in the selection of spices. Thus there can little be difference from one recipe to another. There are dozens of Vadouvan recipes but you can find in all of them onion or shallots, garlic, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and fenugreek.
We give you today our recipe, so just try to make your own Vadouvan!
How to make it
- 200 g Urad dhal (split black lentils)
- 5 kg shallots
- 1 kg garlic
- 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tbsp black gram
- 1 tbsp mustard seeds
- 2 hands full of chopped curry leaves
- 1 tbsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 ½ cup sesame oil
Rinse the urad dhal and soak it with fenugreek seeds in water for an hour. Grind them until they become a paste.
Peel your shallots and garlic and crush them into pieces. Put them with all other ingredients except the oil along with your urad dhal/fenugreek paste in a bowl.
Mix all these ingredients and keep your paste in a glass container.
Let the mixture rest over a day, then a second day under the sunlight. The third day, stir your Vadouvan a last time with the oil in order to make balls of it and let them dry in the sunlight (around a week) until they are fully dehydrated. Your Vadouvan balls can now last for a year and most importantly will preserve the wonderful taste of the spice mix until you find a proper use for them!
Marathi Moggu, the black spice
Another kind of spice very famous in South India is Marathi Moggu. It is made from flower buds from Red Silk Cotton Tree which are dried until they get a strong dark brown color. The buds’ shape is close to black big cloves but the taste is quite specific.
Marathi Moggu is also sometimes confused with black cardamom since their shape are also quite close. To avoid these mistakes, let us introduce you to the famous green cardamom’s sister!
Green cardamom is very famous is South Indian cooking. Her sister “the black cardamom” has a softer taste but has other interesting assets. Black cardamom (also called “Brown Cardamom” or “Nepal Cardamom”) is known to be best in India. The fruits are bigger and browner that green cardamom and they come from a wild variety of tree. Bugs are softly smoked on fire and thus give a better taste to meat, chicken or vegetables dishes.
You can either grind the whole bug to obtain a real smoked taste or extract seeds from it to grind them and obtain a softer taste. You can buy it already grinded but its flavor might have vanished and it will never taste like fresh ones.
The healthy tip: Black cardamom is used in Ayurveda medicine to cure all sorts of digestive issues. So don’t hesitate to adopt it!