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Madras Masala Paste

Did you ever find yourself getting stuck with a recipe that list a paste or ingredient that you have no idea how to get or make? I often did and it is so annoying. Recently I was trying to making an Indian recipe and I stumbled upon Madras Masala Paste??? erhm... huh? What is that? I flipped through the whole book from back to cover... no mention of what this paste is nor how to make it. Thank goodness for the Internet, without it, I wouldn't be able to make this paste nor know what it is.:-)

Ok, Confession time: when I made this paste the first time around, I didn't have exactly all the ingredients and I improvised a bit. I replaced the spices with ready-grounded spices. I replaced black mustard seeds (I didn't have them at hand) with wasabi (I know, the Indian chef would have a heart attack if he knew this) and I used balsamic vinegar instead of cider. On top of that, I absently added the oil into the paste mixture. I realised my mistake too late. Anyway I cooked the paste, curious to see how it would turn out - although the oil never separated from my paste, the paste was still delicious and very fragrant.

Coming soon, recipe that uses this paste. Do watch out for it.:-)

Madras Masala Paste
Ingredients
  • 8 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 4 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 11 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 inches piece fresh ginger, peeled and shredded
  • cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup sunflower oil
Directions
  1. Heat up wok and dry stir-fry the coriander, cumin, and peppercorns for 1-2 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring constantly.
  2. Add the black mustard seeds and toss constantly until they start to pop. Do watch the spices carefully that they don't get too dark or burnt.
  3. Transfer the spices to cool on a plate. (The spices will continue to cook if you leave them in the wok to cool). Grind the cooled spices into a fine powder.
  4. Add the turmeric, chili powder and salt, garlic, ginger and stir in enough vinegar to make a paste.
  5. Heat the oil in a frying pan at medium heat, fry the paste, stirring constantly until the oil begins to separate.
  6. Remove pan from heat and let the paste cool completely.
  7. Keep the paste in a clean airtight container. Store in fridge and use it within 3 weeks.
Notes

As noted by one of my reader and confirmed by my friend from India, vinegar is not part of any traditional madras recipe. As far as my friend's knowledge goes, South Indians use tamarind juice wherever they need the sour taste and not vinegar. So I guess the vinegar is an improvised solution when one doesn't have tamarind on hand.

This paste is very aromatic and spicy - as it is really white-hot-fire-burning-inferno-from-hell. For those who can't take it very spicy, reduce the quantity of chili powder added to the paste. You have been warned!

13 comments.
#1, by indosungod (04/24/2009)

Madras is the capital of my state TamilNadu in India. I grew up in the state and have no idea there exists such a paste. Other than the vinegar most of the ingredients are what would be used in any masala paste.

Whatever you are going to cook up with that paste is sure going to be delicious.

#2, by The Cooking Ninja (04/25/2009)

@indosungod: From what I understand, Madras Masala is the spiciest of all - I didn't realized how spicy it was till I tasted it.:-p

#3, by Jurate (04/25/2009)

Very interesting! I want to try this masala! Kashmiri chili powder maybe would make it a little less hot?

Good job on improvising also. That's been my new "hobby" out of necessity here:-) Not for Indian food, but for EVERYTHING else I want to cook.

#4, by Joelen (04/25/2009)

This looks like a wonderful and flavorful recipe!

#5, by LCOM (04/25/2009)

Hehe...we do like to improvise with what we have at home ya? Can't wait to see what you made with this paste.

#6, by Jamie (04/25/2009)

Wow! I am so impressed that you actually made this. I would have either looked at my local Asian market or the Indian take-out that sells spices and such. I would love to make this, and I am waiting for the following recipe that uses it!

#7, by The Cooking Ninja (04/25/2009)

@Jurate: I don't know Kashmiri chili powder so I can't tell. I think the chili powder I bought from Singapore and currently using for this paste is a very spicy one. I know there are different chili powder grade from mild to truly spicy ones.

@Joelen: The paste is so aromatic.:-)

@LCOM: Nowadays, I improvise more and more ... luckily so far, the results are good.;-)

@Jamie: hmm...perhaps you might find this in Nantes. The spices and Asian stuff available in Nantes are getting better and better. I made this paste from scratch because I don't think I can find this paste here and also I love challenges.;-)

#8, by Sophie (04/26/2009)

MMMMM...I love making masala! from sctratch!
Thanks for your version!

#9, by tigerfish (04/27/2009)

Now..what is the difference btw Madras Masala and Garam Masala? ;p

#10, by The Cooking Ninja (04/27/2009)

@Sophie: This is the first time I made masala from scratch.:-) Well, it would have been better if I made it really fresh using seeds on ready available ground spices.

@tigerfish: hahaha ... I'm still trying to find out what's the difference. All I can find is that there is a different between Garam Masala and masala - apparently the masala mix differs from regions to regions.

#11, by Janet_Gourmet Traveller 88 (04/28/2009)

I like mixing things as a kid already, that's why I chose to study Pharmacology. I was fascinated how mixing the spices would become. I should try to make this one too as i seem to have all spices at home already.

#12, by Dave Lane (06/19/2010)

Seems like a lot of Tumeric... most recipes I see use a few teaspoons at most... Should that be 1 tbsp rather than 11?

#13, by The Cooking Ninja (06/20/2010)

@Dave Lane: I have checked again it is indeed 11 tbsp. However I'm sure you can reduce it to 1 or 5 tbsp as per your wish. Tumeric gives it a more yellowish colour and fragrant. I have seen recipes online using only 1 tbsp or 5 tbsp. So the paste will still taste great even with less tumeric powder. Just be careful when eating anything with tumeric in it. It will stain your clothes if you get any on it.