Blends vs Spices

Who knew? Well I did, but I will admit I really didn’t understand. Although “curry” and “Garam Masala” are sold as spices they are, in fact, spice blends. What I didn’t know is that they are pretty similar in constituent parts (turmeric seems to be the big difference along with chilli powder).

According to the article and chart Garam Masala focusses on the “stronger pungent spices” like cloves, cinnamon, cardamom as opposed to curry powder, which uses more “mild spices like turmeric, cumin, coriander and fenugreek” which tend to be “sweet mild spices.” Being someone who thinks “mild” is usually way too hot this is a bit of a revelation.

Recipe confusion

What is got me thinking about all this is that recipes often call for one or the other and occasionally even add in even more spices. I am not sure if there is an international recognized “curry” standard but my guess is not — so that means you are rolling the dice a bit every time you try a new recipe. It’s a coincidence, but my randomly chosen “go to” curry recipe doesn’t call for either blend. Instead it asks for:

Spice blend
– 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
– 1 tsp ground cumin
– 1/2 tsp turmeric
– 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
– 1/4 tsp ground mustard
– 1/4 tsp ground cloves
– 1/4 tsp cayenne

Which I now discover (according to the chart) is mostly a curry powder. I don’t own any cardamom or fennel seed but I guess I should get some to be more authentic. 😉 Still, I guess I am bit proud of the fact my subconscious decided to go for a custom blend rather than a prepackaged blend. Maybe next I will try grinding my own spices from whole…lol.


Ironically I didn’t have any mustard or coriander last time I made it so I added in a bit of Garam Masala… I guess that really crossed a line in terms of authenticity… but we ate it anyway—and it didn’t kill anyone. Which is pretty much all I ask of my cooking.