Bhuna Masala Vs. Sofrito; Know The Difference
Image Credit: Encyclopedia Britannica

‘Humble beginnings’ isn’t just a term you can use to describe extraordinary human beings but also attribute it as the secret to the success behind a fairly simple and unassuming recipe. If we had to point out one similarity between butter chicken, pasta e fagioli and the jambalaya, it would be the first step towards the creation of these recipes, which is to cook down a medley of vegetables into mushy nothings with a flavour so evolved that it would be hard to imagine a recipe without the presence of this base of delicious paste.

At its most primal, both – the bhuna masala and sofrito, the Spanish flavours of onions, garlic and tomatoes – are used to mark the beginning of preparing a recipe. From sabzis, soups, curries and even a dhabewaali dal, both these flavour bases are really working towards eyeballing proportions. What that really means is that, depending on the kind of flavours you like, the bhuna masala and sofrito could taste different each time. Want your butter chicken to have a sweet after-taste? Add more onions. Why does the paella taste so tangy? It’s the tomatoes that bring in all the flavour. That said, these masala/sofrito bases have their distinctive differences. Read more to know what.

Bhuna Masala

Image Credits: My Food Story

An everyday Indian curry paste, bhuna masala forms the foundational flavours of just about any vegetarian or meat-based North Indian recipe. Made with garlic, ginger, chillies, onions and lots of tomatoes, bhuna masala is a slow-cooked curry base that is made by cooking down all the ingredients until the fat begins to separate at the corners. Starting off as what resembles a stir-fried tangle of vegetables, the ingredients cook in the juices secreted from the onions and tomatoes until they are a shade of burnished red. This masala paste can be made in large batches and frozen until ready to be used in curries, dals, soups, chhole or even sabzis if you’re short on time or don’t have the patience to cook the masala from scratch.

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Image Credits: Cooking The Globe

Think a Spanish version of bhuna masala, the sofrito is made with primary ingredients like garlic, onions, tomatoes and bell peppers. At times, leeks also replace the presence of onions in the recipe that originated in the medieval ages. While there isn’t a particular origin story for the bhuna masala, it is believed that the Spaniards incorporated tomatoes into their sofrito when it was introduced as a ‘wonder fruit’ in Catalona in the sixteenth century. Another stark difference between the bhuna masala and the sofrito is that while the former is really a standard recipe, no matter which Northern state you visit, the components of a sofrito changes from region to region; an extra serving of garlic is added to Cuban-style sofrito whereas Ecuadorians prefer a milder sofrito with the addition of sweet peppers and cumin.