Punjabi cuisine is known for its rich and flavourful taste, which is achieved through the use of various spices and condiments. The basic masala of Punjabi cuisine includes cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, and mustard seeds. These ingredients are used in various dishes, such as chana masala, butter chicken, and saag paneer. Using these condiments adds fragrance and taste and has multiple health benefits
Punjabi food has a rich and varied history that spans many centuries and has been shaped by a matrix of interwoven influences. Punjabi cuisine has a rich and diverse history that spans centuries and even the state's boundaries. But, at its core, this magnificent food owes its intoxicating structure to its spices. Among the most commonly used condiments in Punjabi cuisine are cumin, coriander, turmeric, and garam masala. These spices are used in various forms, including whole seeds, ground powders, and pastes.
Cumin, for instance, is often used in its whole seed form and is added to dishes such as chana masala and rajma. On the other hand, coriander is used both as whole seeds and ground powder and is a crucial ingredient in cooking, such as chicken tikka and aloo gobi. Turmeric, with its bright yellow colour, is used to add tint and taste to dishes such as biryani and tandoori chicken. Finally, garam masala, a blend of various spices, is used to add warmth and depth to culinary fares such as butter chicken and paneer tikka.
Almost all dishes from Punjab include garam masala, a characteristic spice combination, as their base. It would be hard to overstate the importance of garam masala in Punjabi cooking and the many other regional cuisines of India. Its pervasive importance, then, is intrinsic to the very fabric of Punjabi society and culture. Garam masala's extraordinary depth and flavour intensity are a big part of what differentiates it. Punjabi garam masala has an unrivalled palate profile, from the intoxicating aroma and exotic taste of cumin and cardamom to the warm, comforting, earthy notes of cinnamon and coriander seeds.
It is a blend of several whole spices, and it may be news to many that though we use the term garam masala as a homogeneous condiment mix, its composition varies from region to region in India. In Punjab, Garam masala is one of the key elements in cooking. With its blend of spices has a warming effect on the body and aids in digestion. It usually has dry-roasted whole spices. The list includes cumin seeds, coriander seeds, green cardamoms, cinnamons, bay leaf, black cardamoms, cloves, star anise, mace, black peppercorns, nutmeg, and fennel seeds.
One of the most prominent spices in Punjabi cuisine is fennel seeds, also known as saunf. They provide a sweet liquorice fragrance and a tinge of anise to traditional Punjabi fare. As a post-meal breath freshener and digestion help, they are also widely utilized in most homes.
Cumin seeds, Image Source: Pexels
Cumin, known in Punjabi as "jeera," was first introduced to the region by Arab traders and rapidly became a mainstay in Punjabi cooking. In Punjab, you may get both white jeera and black jeera, and both the whole seeds and the powdered form. The meals that use these seeds benefit from their unique flavour and aroma, reminiscent of a fragrant earthiness.
It is common practice in Punjabi cuisine to utilize whole cinnamon sticks while tempering a dish. However, cinnamon is used in a wide variety of ways throughout the cooking. Cinnamon has a warm, soothing, and somewhat sweet flavour characteristic. Yet, its earthy and peppery undertones also provide a savoury taste. Meat dishes, dal, sweet masala cha, and a wide variety of Punjabi desserts and sweets all benefit from the use of cinnamon. Naturally, it's also a mainstay in the Punjabi spice mixture known as garam masala.
Not many regional cuisines of India use this condiment in culinary fares. Black ones have a robust aroma compared to their smaller and green cardamon. Black cardamoms are staple spices in Punjabi cooking. The flavour is bold and distinctive, and the scent is intensely fragrant and resinous.
Black cardamoms, Image Source: Freepik
The green kind of cardamom, which is sweeter than its black counterpart, is one of the world's most expensive spices. A mainstay in the masala cha of many Punjabi households, black cardamom has a woodier, stronger flavour than its green sibling.
Coriander, or 'dhania' as it is known in Northern India, followed cumin into Punjabi kitchens thanks to the Arabs. In Punjab, the leaves of the aromatic coriander plant are used as a garnish, while the seeds and powder are employed throughout the cooking process. The powder is used to thicken the sauce in many traditional Punjabi meals.