While the garam masala used in most northern and western Indian cooking might contain everything from coriander and cumin seeds to mustard seeds, the Bengali version, in its most basic form, is made up of just cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. The ‘shahi’ (meaning royal) garam masala takes this basic spice blend to the next level. The inclusion of some additional aromatic spices such as mace (joyitree) and nutmeg (jaiphol) impart fragrance, while dried red chillies and black peppercorns provide a subtle bit of heat and flavour.
In Bengali cooking, shahi garam masala is especially used to flavour egg, chicken, mutton, lamb, or beef curries. Along with ghee, it may also be used as garnish for several vegetarian preparations (most ghontos and dalna, and khichuri).
The Bengali garam masala and shahi garam masala are both must-haves in the Bengali kitchen. But if you must pick just one, go the extra mile and keep a small reserve of the shahi version in your arsenal. You’ll be surprised at its transformative powers.
- 2 g (5-cm log) Cinnamon (darchini)
- 2 g (30 pieces) Cloves (lobongo)
- 7 g (30 pieces) Green cardamom (elach)
- 1 piece Black cardamom (boro elach)
- ¼ tsp Nutmeg (jaiphol) shavings
- 1 pinch Mace (joyitree)
- 1 g (4 pieces) Bay leaves (tej pata)
- 1 g (2 pieces) Dried red chillies (shukhno lonka)
- 2 g (80 pieces) Black peppercorn (golmorich)
- Measure out the whole spices in the given proportion. You may lightly crush them with a pestle or rolling pin before roasting, if you like.
- Heat a pan on medium-low flame and add the whole spices to the pan.
- Dry-roast them evenly on all sides, stirring continuously, for about 5 minutes. You should be able to smell the fragrance of the shahi garam masala by this point.
- Add the toasted spices to a grinder and blitz them till you have a fine powder. You can also use a mortar and pestle to grind by hand.
- Store the shahi garam masala powder in an airtight container.