Kurma, can you please tell me the difference between green cardamom
and black cardamon? I know green cardamon is used in curry spice
mixes, but can you use black cardamom in the same applications?
Would a garam masala be ruined if you used black cardamom?
Thanks so much for your help.
Jacquie Atkininson, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Thanks for your letter regarding cardamom
The short answer is that strictly speaking, the brown/black wrinkled
large pods are not interchangeable with the smaller ones, although
ultimately, since one man's food is another man's poison, and since
there are no hard and fast rules in the kitchen, you could make
a garam masala with the black cardamom, although I wouldn't.
It would taste a bit crude. Here is more to distinguish the three
culinary varieties of cardamom that are commonly available.
BROWN CHINESE/INDIAN CARDAMOM PODS
Other Common Names: Bastard Cardamom, Black Cardamom, Elaichi,
Botanical Name: Cardamomum amomum
Description & Use: Brown cardamom pods are dark brown
in colour and are oval pods about 2.5cm long. The aroma is camphor-like
and smokey, quite different to the better known green cardamom.
Brown cardamom gives a delicious smokey taste to marinades for tandoori-style
cooking. This is not interchangeable with green cardamom in recipes.
GREEN CARDAMOM PODS
Other Common Names: Cardamom Seed, Cardamom Pods, Green
Botanical Name: Eletaria cardamomum
Description & Use: A straw-green to bright-green coloured,
fibrous pod, the fruit of a ginger-like plant, enclosing pungent
black seeds. Commonly referred to as green cardamom because the
pods are bright green in colour and not to be confused with brown
or large cardamom (Cardamomum amomum) mentioned above. They smell
like a mixture of camphor, eucalyptus, orange peel and lemon. Each
pod contains about 8 - 12 seeds. It is better to buy the whole pod
rather than the seeds, as the flavour is more intense and is maintained
longer. Bruise the pods lightly with the back of a cleaver before
Cardamom is native to the Western Ghats of India and Sri Lanka.
Harvested from wild plants and not cultivated until 1800, it was
traded heavily by the Greeks in the 4th century B.C.
Traditional also in Danish pastry making, cardamom pods are picked
before fully ripe (ripe pods tend to split) and kiln dried. Whole
pods are put into rice dishes, and ground seeds for the major part
of garam masala. It is also used in Indian and Scandinavian
desserts and sweetmeats, in spiced chai tea, and sucked as
a mouth freshener in India after a meal.
The leaves of the cardamom plant can be used in soups, rice, stocks
and other dishes where are cardamom like flavour is required. The
leaves are removed at the end of cooking.
Also, the greener the cardamom pods, the better the quality.
Other Common Names: Thai Cardamom, Siam Cardamom.
Botanical Name: Amomum krervanh
Description & Use: A variety of cardamom that is milder
than green cardamom, and although considered inferior to green cardamom
by many cooks, it does have a delicate flavour profile that goes
well in Thai cuisine.
Some white cardamom pods (now rarely available) are not the Thai
variety but are the green ones that have been bleached with peroxide
or sulphur dioxide, and are not recommended. Variations in quality
are generally due to post harvest drying/handling.
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