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Maharashtrian Kala Masala

The spice blends which are central to Maharashtrian cooking are the Goda Masala and the Kala Masala. These spice blends are used to flavor a variety of vegetable, poultry, meat, sea-food and lentil preparations; and each family usually has its own variation on the recipe, that is passed on through the generations.

Growing up in the same culture, I never truly understood the big difference between the two spice blends; as they more or less give similar results in curries and dals when used interchangeably. Moreover, I also found most people using the two terms to mean the same thing. So, I started asking family members and other foodies; and also read through some other articles on the matter to understand what is truly the difference between the two, if there really was any.

It appears that most of the spices used in both the spice blends are more or less the same; but the difference lies in the degree to which the ingredients are roasted; for the ingredients are roasted lightly for making Goda Masala, in comparison to Kala Masala where ingredients are fried and roasted much more strongly. Also, it seems like chillies are not used in the Goda Masala; while ingredients like sesame and poppy seeds are not used in the Kala Masala. While these differences may exist, I believe they do not lead to much variation in terms of net flavor of the spice blend; as the main flavors in the blends are dominated by dagad phool (rock flower, a sort of lichen), jaipatri (mace) and nag keshar (cobra’s saffron), while coriander seeds form the base of both the blends. The mixture is very robustly spicy, and used in very small quantities in the preparation of a variety of vegetables, lentils or even meat and sea-food curries.

The recipe I have shared here is that of Kala Masala, that is prepared in my family and the proportions written here are to make the spice blend to easily suffice for a family of 4-5 people for the entire year’s supply. The spices are traditionally hand-pounded using large mortars and pestles and that would be the ideal way to make it to preserve the flavor and aroma better; but I chose to use the modern convenience of the electric grinder in the interest of time.

Ingredients:

1kg Coriander seeds (Dhane/Dhaniya);

250g dried Coconut (Suke Khobre/ sukha Nariyal);

100g dried Red Chillies (Lal Mirchi);

100g Cumin Seeds (Jeera);

50g Rock flower lichen (Dagad phool/Patthar phool);

50g Black Pepper (Kali miri/Kali mirch);

50g dried Bay Leaves (Tamal patra/Tej patta);

50g Mace (Jaipatri/ Javitri);

25g Black Cardamom (Masala elaichi/ badi elaichi);

25g Black Cumin seeds (Shahjeere/ Shahi jeera);

25g Cinnamon (Dalchini);

25g Cloves (Lavang/Laung);

25g Star Anise (Chakriphool);

25g Cobra’s saffron/ Ceylon ironwood (Nag Keshar/ Nagchampa);

5g Asafoetida solids (Hing Khada);

2 g Turmeric Powder (Haldi).

~ 250ml Peanut Oil (or any other refined oil) for frying or roasting the spices.

Coriander seeds, stone flower, black cardamom and black pepper (Clockwise from top left)

Coriander seeds, stone flower, black cardamom and black pepper (Clockwise from top left)

IMG_2823

The fried spices..

The fried spices..

The roasted spices..

The roasted spices..

Dried Red Chillies, grated dried coconut andcumin seeds (Clockwise from top)

Dried Red Chillies, grated dried coconut andcumin seeds (Clockwise from top)

Asafoetida solids, cobra's saffron, bay leaves (clockwise from top left)

Asafoetida solids, cobra’s saffron, bay leaves (clockwise from top left)

Mace, black cumin seeds, cloves, star anise and cinnamon (clockwise from top left)

Mace, black cumin seeds, cloves, star anise and cinnamon (clockwise from top left)

  1. Grate the dried Coconut and dry roast it in a pan till the coconut turns light brown in color. Keep aside and allow to cool.
  2. Dry roast cinnamon, cumin seeds and black cumin seeds very lightly, just until they are slightly warm (roasting these strongly may result in loss of their aroma and result in a bitter taste).
  3. Heat ~200ml oil in a pan till it reaches a smoking temperature, then lower the flame and fry mace, cobra’s saffron, cloves, black cardamom, star anise, black peppercorns and asafetida solids in quick succession, separately. Set them aside to cool separately.
  4. Remove the excess oil from the pan. Then roast the red chillies and coriander seeds along with a few tea-spoons of oil until the chillies and coriander seeds change color and release some aroma. Roasting these two together ensures that the strong vapors released by roasting chillies are absorbed by the cumin seeds and does not cause discomfort to the person doing this roasting. Roast these ingredients together in multiple batches. Mix the turmeric powder with the roasted coriander seeds and chillies. Then allow them to cool.
  5. Now roast the stone flower lichens along with a tbsp of oil and then allow it to cool.
  6. Roast bay leaves with another tbsp of oil until the bayleaves change color.
  7. Grind all the ingredients, excpet the roasted coconut, separately to make a fine powder and mix them all together in a large flat plate. Sieve the spice mixture to get a fine spice blend. Then roughly crush the roasted coconut with your palms and mix it into the spice mixture.
  8. Store the spice blend in an air-tight container in a cool and dry place, can be stored this way for upto an entire year.
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13 comments on “Maharashtrian Kala Masala

  1. Aruna Panangipally
    March 14, 2015

    I thought you were talking of Goda Masala when I ad the title. It is then that I read the whole post. Nice explanation and great to understand the difference. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nitali04
      March 14, 2015

      Honestly, this is what I have understood as the difference, but it is strongly debated among those who use the spices regularly..Since every family has its own recipe, it was even more difficult to know the exact difference. So, I have written about what I have understood to be the general difference..But I am looking forward to more comments debating this 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. thenovelist
    March 14, 2015

    Some nice authentic ingredients. Indian cooking is my way of life:)

    Like

    • nitali04
      March 14, 2015

      Thank you..It is a very flavorful, robust spice blend..I may be partial to it, since I have grown up with this being used everyday, but it is quite a favorite with my friends from other cultures too 🙂

      Like

  3. skd
    March 18, 2015

    This is amazing work Nitali. Didn’t know the difference till now. I didn’t know rock flower is used in maharashtrian cuisine.

    Like

    • nitali04
      March 18, 2015

      Thank you, I am trying to understand better myself 🙂
      Rock flower it used in these masalas, and then also in Malwani Masala..but otherwise, I don’t recall it being used directly in any other preparation..

      Liked by 1 person

      • skd
        March 18, 2015

        The hyderabadi Nehari uses rock flower. However it is tied in a muslin cloth along with some other spices and left to simmer along with the meat so that the meat catches the flavor.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. nitali04
    March 18, 2015

    Oh..that’s interesting…It is such a fragrant spice..Thanks for the information..Will definitely try it whenever I visit Hyderabad 🙂

    Like

  5. Priya Gadre
    July 14, 2015

    This recipe is as authentic as it gets.

    Like

  6. Priya V
    October 20, 2016

    Really good and informative article!!! Thank you!

    Like

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This entry was posted on March 14, 2015 by in Recipes, The Family Recipes Project and tagged , , , , , .
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