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Sep 21, 2005 12:34 PM

Is garam masala the same as curry powder?

  • s

I'm making a vegetable curry for dinner and I'm confused if I can substitute garama masala for curry powder. The recipe I'm following uses these spice ingredients:

1 T fresh ginger
1 T ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp cardamon

I have access to all kinds of markets so should I just get a pre-packaged curry mix from an Indian grocer, Whole Foods, or Central Market?

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  1. Not if you want it to turn out exactly the same. But there is also no reason you could not use the blend you suggest instead of garam masala if you like it. Garam masala is just a different mixture of spices. What you have looks like the recipe for the yellow spice mixture that most Americans think of as curry. As I understand it, curry is a term for any kind of spiced stew. I prefer to roast spices and mix my own spice blends at home because the flavors are so much more intense than store-bought, even if they come from an Indian grocer.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ellen

      garam masala is a blend of five spices. it doesn't taste like curry powder.

      curry powder is a british invention made to give an exotic flavor to dishes. i think they were trying to emulate the flavor of curiapa (sp?) leaves, which are used in indian cooking.

      like ellen said, it won't taste the same, but who knows? it might be better! i'm not a fan of "curry powder", so using garam masals might be an improvement!

    2. wait a second - i just looked at your recipe and i just realized that the spices used in the recipe are already contained in garam masala... so you'd essentially just be increasing the amount of some of the other spices and leaving out the curry powder.

      1. a
        Amin (London Foodie '''')

        Garam Masala is indeed a five spice mixture of :ground cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, cumin so if you are using garam masala would recommend you take these items out of your recipe.

        Regarding pre-packaged curry mix, dont think thats a good idea if you want to have the true flavours and intensity which you can only get by making your own through trial and error.

        For a simple curry, lightly brown some onions in oil, add small quantities of the spices you have listed above (turmeric and/or paprika will give it a good curry colour and flavour), pour in your cooked vegetables, pour in a half cup of water (a bit more water if desirable for more curry). If there is too much water and you wish to thicken the curry, add a tiny amount of cornflour.

        (instead of water, you can add a half tin of coconut milk or tomato pulp)

        (note: Am not a good cook and the above is just my own mad recipe but let me know if it works out for you).

        If you are making Salmon, here's a curry idea as a sauce:

        toast mustard seed in a pan containing a dash of olive oil, adding curry powder with a bit of double cream, some mushroom & finally adding a bit of garlic. Garlic must always be put in last.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Amin (London Foodie '''')



          1. re: Scagnetti
            Amin (London Foodie '''')


            That's progress for you....I finally learnt how this CH board works :-)

            Good to know you remembered my earlier posting style.
            Best Wishes/AL

        2. Garam Masala, which literally means "hot spice" is always added during the last 15 mins. of cooking a curry dish. It is used in some types of curry to add a burst of flavor, and is heavier on cinnamon, cloves, ginger,cardamom, etc. Instead of taking the time to roast and grind my own spices for Garam Masala, I buy the tins of Rajah brand. There are many recipes for Garam Masala, so you just have to find one that you like particularly well. By the way, not all garams have just 5 spices. Rajah lists 9. I have many scratch recipes that call for 8 and 9 spices.

          The "curiapa" that one poster mentioned is probably Curry Patha (pronounced "Patta", which means "leaves"). They are used in Southern Indian cooking. Some chefs say you can substitute bay leaves, but they are far off the mark. I grow my own as a house plant. They have a smoky flavor that can't be duplicated in any other way. A good Indian market usually has fresh curry leaves for sale.

          Hope this helps.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Deirdre

            I just fresh bought curry leaves yesterday. Any advice on how to appropriately incorporate them into a dish? Say, for chicken? I'm assuming I would add them whole toward the beginning of cooking, rather than at the end like you would fresh herbs? How strong are they (how many should I use)?

            Many thanks.

            1. re: adamclyde

              Mostly, the amount depends on the recipe's yield. Six curry patha are not unusual in many dishes. Here's a recipe for more:

              CHETTINAD Chicken Curry (South Indian)

              2 3/4 lb whole chicken, cut up, or use chicken parts you prefer
              4 1/2 tbsp. coconut or vegetable oil
              1 2/3 onion, sliced
              20 curry leaves
              1 tsp. Kashmiri red chili powder (if you can find it. It's used for flavor and color, not heat. You can add plain chili powder if you want this spicy hot)
              1 tsp. each ground coriander and turmeric
              1 2/3 cup. coconut milk
              1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
              1/3 c. chopped tomatoes (can used whole canned)

              SPICE PASTE
              1 tbsp. peeled, chopped fresh ginger
              2 tbsp. chopped garlic
              3 cloves
              10 black peppercorns
              1 1/2 tswp. fennel seeds
              1" pice cinnamon stick

              Cut the whole chicken into 8 pieces, or take the already cut pieces and remove the skin. To make the spice paste, put all the ingredients in a blender or mini-processor with 3 tbsp. water and whiz to a fine paste.

              Heat the oil in a large deep saute pan, add the onions and saute until softened and light brown. Add the curry leaves and spice paste, and saute for 2-3 mins., then stir in the chili powder, coriander and turmeric, and cook, stirring for 30 seconds.

              Add the chicken pieces and saute until golden. Add the coconut milk, salt, and chopped tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer 20 mins or until the chicken is cooked. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro leaves before serving.

              Bon apetit!