Garam masala is perhaps as common in Indian cuisine as curry. But, there are several blends available in the market; even home-made ones vary from region to region or from home to home. The Bengali garam masala is a simple mixture or blend (often whole ingredients are used rather than ground) of three spices: cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. Other garam masala blends usually contain at least two of these in addition to several spices, like cumin, coriander, and black pepper.
The Bengali garam masala has a sweet and nutty flavor because of the presence of cinnamon and cardamom and because of the absence of any minty or fennel-like flavors. A common way to add the garam masala to a dish is to sauté a mixture of the whole spices in oil or ghee at the beginning or to dry-roast the mixture, grind it, and sprinkle it on the dish as a finishing touch. Dry-roasting (on stovetop or oven) brings out the flavor, adding a nutty touch to it, and makes it easier to powder the mixture.