Monday, July 14, 2008
The two faces of cardamom: One subtle, the other bold
In an earlier post I wrote about home-made herbal tea. This post is about the nuances of cardamom – how two kinds of cardamom have two distinct flavors.
The two kinds are small and green, and large and black. A while ago, my mother and I tested the flavors of the two kinds in tea. We made the tea with identical leaves and the same method, but the tea sample with green cardamom had an aromatic, subtle flavor, while the one made with the large variety had a bold, smoky flavor. Our conclusion: they aren’t interchangeable.
The large cardamom is used extensively in many Indian dishes, including fried rice and biryani. But, I wouldn’t use it in herbal tea; the green small ones are better for that use.
Yet, in the end, cardamom remains a mystery to me. When I went to Sikkim, a mountainous state in India’s Northeast, I drank flavorful black (without creamer/milk) tea from porcelain cups with heavy lids that looked like small pots. In the quaint eateries on the mountains overlooking the imposing Himalayan peaks, I found the aroma of cardamom tea unspeakably satisfying. I have no idea which cardamom the tea was infused with; all I know is the tea tasted unlike anything I had drunk before. Maybe it was the locale where the secret lay, where cardamom plants grew in the wild and where the mountains added their charm to anything we imbibed.
Dear reader, which cardamom do you prefer? Do you use both?