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What Is Black Cardamom?

Some species of black cardamom grow in Somalia.
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  • Written By: S. N. Smith
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 December 2014
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Black cardamom is a spice also known by the names Nepal cardamom, Greater Indian cardamom, and brown cardamom. It is a member of the Zingiberaceae, or ginger, family. It should not be confused with green cardamom, which has a distinctly different flavor. The Amomum subulatum species is native to the eastern Himalaya region, and production centers in Nepal and Sikkim. Other species of black cardamom grow in southern China, Somalia, Madagascar, and Camaroon.

Although the misconception exists that black cardamom may be used as a cheap substitute for green cardamom, in fact the flavors of the two differ considerably. Green cardamom is much more mellow than the black variety. Its flavor is fresher, with fruit and citrus notes. It has a eucalyptus element, but it is not as intense as that of black cardamom. The latter has a smoky taste, redolent of pine and camphor, with an astringent effect.

The 1.18-inch (3-cm) pods of the black cardamom are sold whole and may be used this way as a flavoring in stews made of vegetables or meats. If used whole, the pods should be removed prior to serving. The seeds may be used crushed or ground. Ideally, whole pods can be purchased and stored in a tightly sealed container, away from light and heat. The seeds should be ground right before using for maximum flavor.

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Black cardamom is used as a primary component in the ubiquitous Indian spice blend garam masala, along with coriander seeds, black pepper, cloves, and cinnamon. It pairs well with other "heating spices," and is excellent in rice dishes and curries containing either meat or vegetables. Garam masala can be purchased at grocery stores specializing in Indian foods or even at larger supermarkets with well-stocked ethnic foods sections.

Alternatively, chefs can try making their own spice mix for an economical, customizable blend. Garam masala can be made combining 1 tablespoon (5 g) black peppercorns, 2 teaspoons (5 g) cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon (2 g) whole cloves, and 4 large black cardamom pods. To this, 3 tablespoons (15 g) coriander seeds, 1/2 teaspoon (1 g) crumbled bay leaves, 1 teaspoon (2.5 g) ground cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon (2 g) ground ginger should be added.

The peppercorns, cumin, cloves, cardamom pods, coriander, and bay leaves can be toasted by stirring them in a pre-heated, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Once fragrant, the spices should be remove from heat and allowed cool. Then the cardamom pods should be removed and split, with the seeds scraped out into the spice mix. The cinnamon and ginger can then be added.

This mix can then be placed in a clean coffee grinder and processed until all the spices are ground. It should be store in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place. This recipe makes about 1 heaping quarter-cup (approx. 35 g) of garam masala.

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anon160783
Post 4

black cardemom isn't typically used in desserts though,

and Valley Fish, you use it sparingly! It's in a lot of indian recipes, often as an ingredient in Garam Masala spice mix, whole or ground. the base for Garam M is often: cardamom, cloves, bay and cinnamon stick. if you want to have it as a powder, i usually add black pepper, cumin,coriander seed and nutmeg. --Calle

PelesTears
Post 3

@ ValleyFiah- Whole cardamom has become one of my favorite spices. My fiancée and I are friends with a couple from Bangladesh, and they introduced us to authentic foods from that region cooked with great spices. They make a great beef curry that is loaded with spices and crushed green cardamom pods. If I ever get the recipe I will be sure to post it, but I am sure there are others online. If you like curry, you might want to give that a try.

Alchemy
Post 2

@ ValleyFiah- You can use ground cardamom seeds in all kinds of desert recipes. The powder is excellent in cakes, apple pies, or deserts that use tart fruits and lemon. If you want more of a hearty recipe, I would recommend using whole black or green cardamom pods. One that comes to mind is scented basmati rice.

To make the rice, sauté chopped onions in a little butter or oil. At the end, add about five to ten cardamom pods, a stick of cinnamon, a bay leaf and a little salt and pepper. Once this is set, add it to the water for the rice, and cook as normal. The finished product will be a fragrant scented rice similar to what you would find in an Indian Restaurant.

ValleyFiah
Post 1

What kinds of recipes would require ground cardamom? It sounds like a very interesting and intense spice, but I have no clue as to what I would make with it.

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