Garam masala is a spice blend that started in the kitchen of the royal families of North India. It was added to food to give warmth to the body as North India winters used to be very cold.
The spices used in the garam masala like mace, peppercorns, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon increase the metabolism of the body. This increase in metabolism causes more heat to be generated and keeps the body warm. In Hindi hot or heat is referred to as “Garam” and hence the word Garam is used. Also, it is a spice blend which is called “Masala” in hindi and thus the name “Garam Masala” was coined.
It is known that in old times the kings had their traditional remedy physicians who knew the medicinal benefits of each spice. These traditional remedy physicians were also known as “Hakims” and would advise the kitchen on the right Garam Masala spice blend. This blend was decided based on the season and health of the royal family members.
Every royal kitchen also had their own “Masalchis”, or the spice blenders.
A masalachi is a person who specialises in spices and blending them. The Masalchis were responsible for preparing the right spice blends to be used by the chefs in the royal kitchen.
The Garam masala would change as per the season and the need of the times and was used mostly in the elite kitchens at the times.
These masalas were prepared fresh everyday from scratch to ensure maximum flavor and aroma in the cooking.
It is also good for digestion.
However, the definition of this masala has evolved over the years and it’s now loosely referred to any spice blend. Usually each Indian household tends to have their own heirloom spice blend recipe that is called garam masala.
There is a common misconception about garam masala that because its name translates to “Hot Spice Blend” that it is spicy.
But this is not true and we have a complete post that elaborates on the spice profile of spices used in it and why it’s not spicy. For more details on the spices profile please refer to this post.
If you are looking for a tried and tested family favorite garam masala recipe please refer to this post.
Apart from its interesting name, the garam masala is used much differently than the other Indian masalas. The powdered garam masala is added at the end and the whole garam masala is added in the beginning. We explain in detail what is the reason for this and how to get the best aroma and flavor out of the garam masala spice blend here.
What is the English name for garam masala?
The term “Garam Masala” literally transaltes to “Hot Spice Blend” in Hindi, but there is no english name for garam masala.
Garam Masala is called the garam masala in all the languages. There is no linguistic translation for the name of this spice blend.
Garam Masala vs Tandoori Masala
North Indian Garam Masala Recipe
Informative! Really love your articles and they help me a lot in my day to day cooking.
Thanks Juni for your kind feedback! Appreciate it 🙂