Black Cardamom: A Chef’s Secret Spice That is Worth The Hype

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Your Guide To Black Cardamom

Black Cardamom

Originating back to India, black cardamom is a popular spice used for its strong and overwhelming flavour across the world.

You might’ve come across this unique spice in dishes such as Indian curries, getting a strong smoky aroma.

Savoury dishes like soups, chowders, casseroles often require the use of cardamom to enhance flavour, while it’s also found in sweet items such as rice puddings and cakes.

Due to its wide use and exceptional flavours, it’s not surprising that cardamom is the world’s third most expensive spice.

However, just like many other Indian spices, it’s often challenging to master the use of cardamom due to its unique flavours. So, before you start using this spice, make sure to gain more information about it by reading below.

What is Black Cardamom?

cardamom pods

As mentioned earlier, black cardamom is an Indian spice primarily used in savoury food items. It’s more commonly known as kali elaichi in Indian areas.

Black cardamom appears to be seed pods that range from dark brown to black in colour, which is also the reason why it’s called brown cardamom at times.

Black cardamom pods grow on a herbaceous plant, which is related to the ginger family. After being harvested, these seed pods are dried using a fire, which provides a smoky flavour and aroma to it.

Due to being dried up, the skin surrounding the pod appears to be wrinkly and tough, while the size ranges from 2cm to 5cm.

If you crack open a black cardamom seed pod, you’ll find many small black seeds inside. These seeds, coupled with the skin, produce an overpowering aroma with a mint and citrus flavour. It can even taste slightly bitter if used in high quantities.

Why Use it?

Black cardamom has a variety of uses in many different types of cuisine from all around the world. Without having such an essential spice in your kitchen, you may not be able to enjoy numerous food items.

For example, black cardamom is an integral part of Indian and Pakistani cuisine. You need to use black cardamom for creating food items from these type of countries.

Moreover, Chinese and Vietnamese dishes also often require the use of black cardamom to enhance flavour. Considering its popularity, it’s safe to say that black cardamom is a highly prevalent spice across all of Asia.

However, more importantly, using black cardamom can improve your health in various ways.

From improving the respiratory system to detoxifying your body, black cardamom is a highly beneficial spice with many medicinal uses.

Benefits of Using Black Cardamom

As mentioned earlier, black cardamom has many incredible benefits for your overall health. Here are some black cardamom benefits that you can gain from using it.

In a world where cancer is rapidly on the rise, recent studies have revealed cancer-fighting properties of black cardamom. This spice can help to increase the activity of special cancer-fighting enzymes in our body.

Moreover, black cardamom may also increase the effect of natural cancer-fighting cells in our bodies. However, research on humans using black cardamom is yet to be conducted.

Additionally, black cardamom can also improve your digestive system significantly. People often eat a mixture of black cardamom and some other spices to relieve themselves of nausea and vomiting.

Black cardamom is also known to heal stomach ulcers and is, in fact, proved to be more effective than anti-ulcer medication.

Moreover, the use of black cardamom for improving oral health dates back to ancient times. It can be used to treat bad breath and even kill off bacteria that lead to dental cavities.

Among other benefits, black cardamom may lower your blood sugar levels, as well as blood pressure. The blood pressure reducing effects of black cardamom may be linked to its high levels of antioxidants.

Various spices

Varieties

Black cardamom is not only limited to one type. It is known to have at least two popular varieties. The first type is the amomum subulatum, which is the one used in Indian cuisine.

The other type is the amomum tsao-ko version, which is larger than the Indian type and is used in Chinese cuisine.

Aside from these two varieties, there are a few more types that are less popular. A black cardamom variety called Aframomum is an African type found in Madagascar, Somalia, and Cameroon.

Where to buy Black Cardamom

When it comes to buying black cardamom, you’ll easily find ground black cardamom in the supermarket spice aisle. On the other hand, it’s quite rare to find whole pods of black cardamom in common supermarkets.

If you want to buy whole pods, it’s best to visit a well-stocked supermarket or an Indian food market. Despite being hard to find, it’s best to buy whole pods, as they are cheaper and have a stronger aroma, especially compared to the seed form.

However, make sure to buy only the dark, firm, and dry pods, which are not too large but about an inch in length. These types of pods have the best flavour and aroma you can find.

Moreover, you’ll often find black cardamom being sold without a sealed packet. In such a situation, you must know how to store cardamom properly to retain its flavour and aroma.

A well-sealed container should be used to store black cardamom away from any sort of heat. Pods can retain their freshness for about a year, while ground black cardamom loses its flavour after a few months.

Black vs Green Cardamom

Cardamom has two primary varieties known as black cardamom and green cardamom. The two types are very different from each other and should not be mixed up.

Green cardamom pods are harvested from the Elettaria cardamomum plant at an early stage before they have matured.

In contrast, black cardamom pods are harvested at a later stage from a different plant type and then dried over fire, resulting in the signature smokiness absent in the green cardamom.

Compared to the intense aroma and overwhelming flavour of the black cardamom, the green cardamom is much milder. Due to lacking smokiness and being milder, green cardamom is used more often in sweet dishes.

The uses of both types of cardamom are also different. While black cardamom is best added to food as whole pods, green cardamom seeds are separated from the pod and are ground up before adding to food.

What Does Black Cardamom Taste like?

After harvesting black cardamom, it is dried over an open fire which gives rise to a pungent, smoky aroma and flavour. Alongside a smoky taste, there are strong tastes similar to those of resin and camphor.

A menthol-like taste and minty aroma are also present in black cardamom, which balances the smokiness of the spice.

In other words, black cardamom really packs a punch and can enhance the flavour of your food significantly. However, you shouldn’t put too much black cardamom; otherwise, its taste can start to become bitter.

cinnamom and cardamom

How to Cook Black Cardamom

Black cardamom is mostly cooked in its whole pod form, which allows us to experience every flavour of this spice. Using the whole pods also makes it easier to use as it can be quite exhausting to grind them.

Due to the intense flavours of black cardamom, it’s essential first to fry it to release its aromas. However, you can also use black cardamom in dishes that require long cooking times in humid environments.

More importantly, you must always use a few more strongly flavoured ingredients to balance the intensity of black cardamom. Lime juice, chiles, and cumin are some ingredients you can use for this purpose.

The best way to cook black cardamom is with Indian or Chinese cuisine. For example, it goes well with Indian curries and Chinese rice dishes. However, you can also use it to create uniquely flavoured marinades.

FAQ's

What is Elaichi good for?

Elaichi in English is known as cardamom, and it’s good for several different purposes. Cooking unique dishes with strong flavours is one of the best ways to use cardamom.

However, you can also use it for its medicinal properties. Whether you have cardiovascular issues or digestive problems, eating cardamom can certainly help you combat those issues.

Is black cardamom bad for health?

As mentioned earlier, black cardamom has many health benefits. As a result, it’s not bad for your health but actually helps improve your overall well-being.

So, make sure to start adding it to your food to gain numerous health benefits that range from improving your respiratory system to making your hair healthier.

Why is black cardamom so expensive?

There are several reasons that contribute to the high prices behind black cardamom. Perhaps the main reason is that growing and harvesting black cardamom is highly labour-intensive and needs to be done by hand.

Even after years of growing and developing the plants, the first harvest is quite small in quantity. Moreover, plants need to be transplanted and weeded between harvesting periods, which requires a significant amount of extra labour.

After harvesting, the pods are sent to be dried, which further requires labour.

Additionally, black cardamom plants only grow in certain regions with a warm climate and do not survive without ideal conditions. As a result, it requires a lot of care and perfect conditions to grow, contributing to its high price.

How do you eat black cardamom?

Black cardamom is best to be added to your food in its pod form. The pods will soften and open up by themselves while cooking, so you can eat them.

However, you can also consume black cardamom in its powder form, which is easily available. The seed form of black cardamom is also available for you to eat.

Can I chew black cardamom?

People often chew black cardamom pods whole, so it’s perfectly fine to do so. However, the taste and aroma are quite intense, so it’s best to chew one pod at a time.

If you want to experience a milder flavour, it’s a good choice to chew individual seeds separated from the pod. Black cardamom is also often used in chewing gums and mints.

What happens if we eat cardamom daily?

Black cardamom is commonly found in Asian cuisine, which means that people eat it regularly. In fact, it’s found in the majority of Indian food items.

If you’re worried about side effects from eating black cardamom daily, you should know there are no serious side effects.

Conclusion

Black cardamom is a popular spice, which isn’t limited to Indian cuisine but is used across the world in a variety of different ways. It may be one of the most expensive spices; however, it can certainly boost the flavour of your food significantly

More importantly, you may also be benefiting your body by eating black cardamom. So, make sure to spice up your food with the unique, smoky, and pungent aroma of black cardamom.

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Andy Canter

Andy

Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.

This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!