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INGREDIENTS AND FLAVOURS

Simple, unassuming turmeric – fundamental in its function as ingredient
Thursday, 07 March, 2019, 13 : 00 PM [IST]
Tapan Vaidya


FnbNews Have you noticed how in the last decade or even longer, Indian spices and ingredients have every now and then made a somewhat sudden and dramatic entry onto the world stage? Many of these have subsequently been flaunted as a recent discovery and have then in an excess of marketing blitz, turned into a global fad. The irony is that most of these have been a part of the Indian tradition, and essential elements of the Indian cuisine for time immemorial.

Golden spice
A case in point would be the simple, unassuming turmeric – fundamental in its function as an ingredient, obliging and accommodating in its utility, it lends itself in more ways than one to every home. The cynosure of international attention recently, it has been an intrinsic part of kitchens in every part of India through many generations. For me on a personal and professional level, the golden spice resonated with additional connotations as I set in place a culinary journey that started many decades ago, and culminated finally in a restaurant, India’s first turmeric-centric food concept.

Collective cultural experience
My partners and I built it around our idea of what Indian cuisine is all about. We believed that turmeric is instantly representative of Indian cuisine, of personal experiences as well as a unified collective cultural experience. It brings to mind a plethora of food memories, drawn from kitchens anywhere in the country. As we worked to bring the idea to life, we realised that the best way would be to stay authentic - no fusion, no mish-mash of cuisines or recipes, we were relying solely on a discipline of culinary expertise that has been built over many thousands of years. So we have a celebration of taste, and the intoxication of the ingredient that is a flag bearer of taste.
 

Vibrant colour and healing properties
When you consider it, there is no denying turmeric is a winner. Celebrated for centuries, the golden coloured, strongly flavoured spice is renowned for its vibrant colour and healing properties. More than any other ingredient it represents the Indian kitchen. Used all over Asia, it is a major part of Ayurveda, Siddha medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, Unani, and much more. It was first used as a dye, and then later for its strong healing properties in alternative medicine practices.  Produced in vast quantities in India, Sangli in Maharashtra takes top spot as the largest producer, probably in the world.

Spice up meat dishes
Mostly used in ground and powdered form, turmeric is also used extensively in South East Asian and Middle-Eastern cuisines, especially to spice up meat dishes. It is also used in spice blends in the Caribbean, North Africa, and Indonesia.

In Indian cuisine as we all know, turmeric is added to nearly every dish, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Its distinct yellow colour adds interest, character and colour to curries as well as desserts and sweet dishes. Its health benefits are numerous, ranging from instant remedy for cuts, bruises and burns to healing properties that help treat conditions from stomach aches to respiratory illness. Turmeric amazingly contains more than 100 chemical compounds that contribute to its ability and it is this chemical cocktail that probably makes turmeric so unique and versatile.  

(The author is founder, Talli Turmeric)
 
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