Curries & Masalas
It’s almost Buddha’s birthday! Buddha’s birthday is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month of the Chinese lunar calendar in nearly all east-Asian countries. This year it falls on Friday, May 17th in the Western calendar. Because it is customary to eat rice on Buddha’s birthday, we developed this heavily spiced vegetarian biryani to honor the Buddha and many of the exotic lands from which our spices come. Our Continental Curry is the perfect blend for this occasion, as it combines the best elements of several varieties of yellow curry. While we can’t promise a permanent Nirvana as a result of this dish, we guarantee at least a transient one!
This savory cornbread knocked our collective socks off at first bite. Our Kala Masala spice blend is a complex one, and that complexity of flavor transfers easily to the skillet cornbread. There’s a tiny bit of heat from some guajillo chiles in the blend that is balanced perfectly by a healthy dose of toasted coconut for sweetness. Try it with a fish, lentil or vegetable soup for maximum enjoyment!
Sri Lankan Curry has none of the turmeric that we often expect in our curries, but is made up of a melange of warm, sweet spices. Each component is individually toasted before being mixed in perfect proportion, yielding an intensely dark and aromatic blend, so intoxicating that most customers who give it a whiff, can’t leave without it. To answer the call for alternative uses of this irresistible blend, we adapted a very classic Southern sweet potato pie filling to feature it, and we are so proud of the result! The sweet potatoes are a perfect canvas for the deep, toasted flavors of the spice, with just a pop of orange zest here and there for contrast. The crust is a dense, almost shortbread-esque shell, made special by the chopped pecans within. This pie is sure to please all who grace your autumn table!
World Spice is the most aromatic place in Seattle, in a good way. The fragrance is so intoxicating that it can sometimes overshadow the visual of all of the seeds, roots, powders and pods in their little jars, most of them in subtle and varying earthy color tones. In the center of the store, though, there sits a bright contrast to the natural richness of the spice color palette — it’s a pyramid of shiny Masala Dabbas, the traditional kitchen implement of India. The gleam of the stainless steel is impossible to ignore, and is the perfect palette for the spice-centric cook.
A masala dabba (mah-SAH-lah DAH-bah) is a container kept close at hand in Indian kitchens. They consist of an outer cannister, inner ramekins, an inner lid, an outer lid, and a small spoon. The containers are filled with the most often used spices in that particular kitchen; usually some combination of Turmeric, Cumin, Indian Coriander, Green Cardamom Pods, Cloves, Black Peppercorns, Red Chile Flakes, Indian Cayenne, Amchoor, Brown Mustard Seeds, Fennel Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, or Nigella Seeds. Having a selection of spices close at hand enables cooks to create curries on the fly to complement specific ingredients, leaving pre-mixed curry powders to less experienced culinarians.
Antique dabbas are found in both copper and wood, though in recent times, stainless steel has become the most popular material for its sleek appearance and ease of care. The dabba we offer has seven inner stainless-steel cups, each with about a 1/2 cup capacity, though we recommend only filling them half-way, and replenishing from your air-tight spice storage often. The gift of a masala dabba traditionally marks a coming of age, given from mother to daughter- though they make excellent gifts for any cook or aspiring cook on your list, most especially paired with a Make Your Own Curry gift set, or a 660 Curries book.
The dabba fun doesn’t end with Indian cuisine, however… We use our masala dabbas for every kind of cuisine imaginable. For the barbeque enthusiast who loves to make their own rubs, a dabba filled with Sweet Smoked Paprika, Indian Cayenne, Yellow Mustard Seed, European Coriander, Granulated Garlic and Onion Powder is sure to please. For fans of south-of-the-border fare, Mexican Oregano, Cumin Seed, Ancho Chile Flakes, Chipotle Flakes, New Mexico Chili Powder, Mole Ole, and True Cinnamon Sticks will be just the ticket. Your imagination is the limit!
A word of advice from a novice gardener: Carrots are much bigger than carrot seeds. Somehow, fifty-odd square feet of garden space doesn’t seem like that much when it’s being planted, but it can produce a surprising haul, most especially in the carrot department. Praise be that carrots are delicious, so their being excessively plentiful is a problem I’m thankful to have! This soup is hearty and delicious, made velvety by the soft puree of carrots, and from the toasted rice in the Poudre de Colombo curry. We’ve dressed it up a little with the prawns, but this soup can easily be made vegan by omitting them, and using red miso paste in favor of the Worcestershire powder. If you’re short on time, or you perhaps planned your garden space better than I did, and therefore the creative utilization of carrots is not a pressing issue for you, a can of pumpkin puree is an excellent substitution.
One of the best things about summer is the abundance of fresh corn on the cob. I was excited to see the first of the season’s crop available at my local Farmer’s Markets and was inspired to spice-up this classic BBQ side. Adding Chaat Masala to butter makes a perfect addition to grilled corn. This beautifully flavored butter is delicious on just about anything that comes off your grill… fish, steak, veggies, you name it!
Sometimes I just like to have fun with my food, and this recipe is a direct result of a playful Sunday afternoon in the kitchen. The delicate aromas wafted out of my kitchen window enticing neighbors to stop in and sample my latest creation. These little yummies will astonish and delight. A divine blend of cassia, cloves, cardamom and black pepper mixed with a sweet, salty, crunchy combo…trust me, you’ll double the batch the second time around.
This dish was featured on the cover of Sunset Magazine’s October 2010 issue featuring one-dish dinners. It was a great issue — not just because they lauded World Spice Merchants as their “holy grail for spices” — and this is a great recipe. Enjoy!
Ever notice how curry tastes better the second day? It’s because the flavors have combined into something greater than the sum of the parts. The ingredients, especially the spices, must be painfully fresh. Always cook within the season’s availability. Winter is the domain of root vegetables and warming spices, whereas summer is filled with lighter fare and bright, fresh flavors. We used chicken, peas and our Madras Curry for this recipe, but try substituting any mix of vegetables, meats, or regional curry powders.