Living the Good Life…

My food blog & cookbook in progress

Masala means…

Indian masalas (picture courtesy k-pra.com)

Indian masalas

Thanks to the filmmaker Mira Nair and her movie Mississippi Masala, many people outside India now recognize the word “masala” to mean spice. In the context of cuisine, most are probably familiar with the terms “garam masala” and “chicken tikka masala,” which represent somewhat different uses for the word. The former – literally translated from Hindi as “hot” or “warm” masala – refers to a dry mixture of spices (individual recipes vary from household to household) used in different parts of Northern India. Interestingly enough, the word “garam” does not refer to the heat of the chilly peppers – in fact, counter intuitive as it may seem for a mixture with this name, chilly peppers are often not even part of a garam masala. The “garam” refers to the fact that many of the spices, such as cinnamon and cloves, are believed to have warming properties, according to the ancient Vedic and Ayurvedic traditions. Examples of cooling spices include camphor and mint. In chicken tikka masala (an invention of Indian restaurants abroad), “masala” simply refers to the spicy sauce or gravy in which the pieces (tikkas) of chicken are floating. Masala is thus an all-purpose word with multiple context-sensitive nuances in meaning

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