This isn't run-of-the-mill curry powder. We hand-toast coriander, cumin, and mustard seeds, then crack them along with ten other spices and two coveted salts: Indian black salt and Korean Bamboo salt roasted in aged bamboo cylinders. It effortlessly seasons a curry, pan sauce, or soup. Rub it on grilled fish, meat, or vegetables. It's magical on roasted peaches.
Kala Namak rock salt
, the ancient healing black salt from India is melted with spices resulting in iron-rich crystals with an amethyst-colored sheen and sulfuric aroma that lends robust meatiness to this curry blend.
Korean Bamboo Salt
, a super-fine white powder, is made by packing grey sea salt in bamboo cylinders and roasting the cylinders in wood fired furnaces to concentrate the salt's mineral content and flavor. The texture is as soft as baby powder; the flavor mild with a finish of citrus and smoke.
Brown Mustard Seeds
are sweeter and more pungent than the more common yellow mustard. We hand toast the seeds to bring out their mellow radish-like fragrance, which helps to clear the sinuses and let in the multiple aromas of this curry.
are the pale brown and perfectly round seeds produced by the same plant that gives us fresh cilantro leaves. Essential to most curry blends, the ground seeds release aromas of lemon and sage.
seeds are beige, crescent-shaped and delicately ridged. They have a musky aroma come from the same plant family that gives us dill, fennel, and caraway.
is the unassuming light brown rhizome of a tropical plant that transforms into the most brilliant golden-orange powder when dried and ground. Its flavor is earthy and warm, its potato-like starch helps to thicken curries, and its high level of antioxidants combats the build up of free radicals in the body.
tastes musky, sharp and vaguely leguminous, flavors that underpin lighter spices like ginger and coriander. Although fenugreek has been known in Europe for millennia, its primary affinity is in Asian curries. Extract of fenugreek is sometimes an ingredient in imitation maple syrup.
comes from the bark of tropical evergreens that are related to the avocado. There are two types. Ceylon cinnamon, sometimes called true cinnamon, is light and mild with citrus notes. Asian cinnamon, also called Cassia, is fruitier, more penetrating, and sweeter. We use Asian cinnamon in this curry for its depth.
is the rhizome of a tropical broad-leafed plant. Its creamy tan flesh is both sweet and spicy with a faint lemony fragrance. Ginger has the unique ability to generate seemingly conflicting sensations of being both hot and cooling in the mouth. This duality makes ginger popular in curry blends, where complexity of sensation is a primary goal.
pods look like pale green paper lanterns. Each one holds nine to twelve tiny black seeds that are exceedingly pungent. The flavor is refreshing, slightly camphoric and lemony, with some of the sweet notes you find in fresh gingerroot. Cardamom is one of the many spices that are equally at home seasoning meats and sweets.
, the dried unopened buds of a tropical evergreen, has a warm roasted honey aroma that is faintly peppery. Cloves are anesthetizing when rubbed on the skin (they are a traditional treatment for a toothache) and they are antibacterial. A little bit of clove goes a long way. Including them here gives our curry blend an affinity to both rich meats and sweet root vegetables.
peppers are slender pointy fiery red chiles with sharp uniform heat (10,000 to 40,000 Scoville units, a measure of a chile's spiciness). Just a pinch jolts the other flavors alive in this blend.
are the highest grade of pepper grown on Mount Tellicherry in the Malabar region of southern India. The bold aromatics and balanced radiating heat of Tellicherry directly contrasts the sharp pointed capsaicin punch of cayenne. When combined, the pepper flavor bounces all around your mouth.
is dried and ground green mango. It lends a fruit-filled sourness to this blend. Acid is an essential flavor element and difficult to capture in a dried spice mixture. Amchur does the trick and is a common ingredient in Northern Indian curries.
, the green ginkgo-fan shaped leaf of the coriander plant, has a lemony aroma that is highly divisive. You either love it or loathe it. In this curry, it adds fresh green flavor and color. If you are a cilantro hater, don't be turned off: we use it discreetly.
, barely refined cane sugar, is burnished with molasses and naturally crystallized rather than granulated like more processed sugars. A small amount restores the natural sweetness of fresh herbs and spices, which lose their sugars when dried.
Building the Blend
Creating spice blends is a balancing act. Each time you add another ingredient you have to consider its innate character and how it interacts with the other ingredients in the mix. Curries are notoriously complex spice blends and composing one requires the highest level of expertise. Mark, Andy, and Dave have chosen 16 spices, herbs, and salts for Bamboo Curry, and each one was carefully considered before it went into the jar. The potential interrelationships (16 to the power of 16) are far too numerous to describe, so let's take just one to illustrate the juggling that goes into making a great curry.
Kala Namak (Indian black salt) is a wild mineral-rich plum colored salt that is speckled with black. The color comes from a small percentage of iron, which also gives the salt its dark roasted aroma, like the smell of heating an iron skillet. Kala Namak is one of a small group of salts that contains sulfur. Sulfur is a component of most proteins, so the scent of it connects us to our smell memories of roasted meats and cooked eggs, giving Kala Namak a promise of gustatory satisfaction. The saltiness of this salt is quiet and grows lazily as it rests on the tongue. Starting softly it develops over a few seconds into something bright and deep and warm, like falling asleep on a sun-drenched beach, waking to find that you are still in a dream.
The addition of Korean Bamboo Salt quickens the pulse of Kala Namak's salinity, bringing a crackling sodium kick as soon as it hits the tongue. The bamboo salt also has a citrus finish, which we strengthen with the addition of acidic Amchur powder in the blend. Together, these lighter flavors balance Kala Namak's deep fleshiness, like a squirt of lemon on grilled salmon.
Other spices broaden and deepen this meaty-citrusy flavor base. Brown mustard seeds add sweet pungency and we hand-toast them to intensify the roasted aromas associated with the Kala Namak salt. Cumin adds earthy muskiness and coriander cooling floral notes; we hand-toast both of those seeds along with the mustard for even more satisfying roasted aroma. Dark sweet woody tones come from fenugreek, turmeric, cinnamon, and clove, while the sultry camphor aromas of cardamom soothe your mind and send it dreaming.
The Chef's Quick Fixes
- Simmer sautéed boneless chicken breasts rubbed with Bamboo Curry in orange juice
- Make shrimp curry with Bamboo Curry, coconut milk, and your choice of vegetables
- Add Bamboo Curry to steamed rice
- Sprinkle cut tropical fruit with Bamboo Curry and a splash of rum
- Sauté cauliflower, potatoes and onions in ghee and Bamboo Curry
- Season roast duck with Bamboo Curry
- Combine Bamboo Curry and a touch of Bacon BBQ into a smoky Tandoori rub.
- Baste baked peaches with Bamboo Curry butter
- Spoon Bamboo Curry mayonnaise on deviled eggs or blend into tuna fish salad
- Rub Bamboo Curry on roasted leg of lamb
- Brush a glaze of Bamboo Curry and orange marmalade over roasted chicken.