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The basic mixtures of spices essential to Indian cookery are called masala, from an Arabic word meaning seasonings. Garam masala, the best known, comes from northern India’s Persian-derived Moghul cuisine. It’s mostly used with meat dishes, similar to the use of baharat in the Arab world, and goes well with onion-based sauces. Chaat masala is a tart and salty spice blend used to flavor the enormously popular snack concoctions called chaat. Chai masala is added to a boiling pot of black tea, which is steeped, strained, mixed with milk, and sweetened with sugar or honey to make a fragrant, warming, and invigorating beverage.


For the garam masala:

  1. 1In a dry skillet, toast crushed cinnamon (not cassia) sticks, Indian bay leaves (or substitute bay laurel), fennel seeds, green cardamom pods, black peppercorns, coriander seeds, and whole cloves until the spices are fragrant and lightly smoking. Cool and then crush. Stir in ground mace or nutmeg. Makes about 1/3 cup. Store in an airtight jar for three to four months.

For the chaat masala:

  1. 1In a dry skillet, toast cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and coriander seeds until lightly browned and fragrant. Cool and crush in a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. Combine with sea salt, black salt, amchur powder, ground ginger, ground hot chiles, ground black pepper, and asafetida. Makes about 1 cup.

For the chai masala:

  1. 1In a dry skillet, combine star anise pods, green cardamom pods, black peppercorns, crushed cinnamon stick (not cassia), and cloves. Toast until fragrant, shaking often. Cool and then grind. Stir in ground ginger. Makes about 1/2 cup.

This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.

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