Ground Turmeric: Flavor Profile
A member of the ginger family, turmeric is a root known for its pepper-like and bitter flavor. Used primarily in curries, turmeric has a mustardy aroma and is one of the most common spices in Asian and Indian cuisine. Turmeric powder has a stronger, more intense flavor than the fresh variety.
Commonly referred to as Indian Saffron, turmeric has a tangy, spicy flavor. It’s perfect in curries, bringing color and flavor to the dish. And thanks to its deep orange-yellow hue, ground turmeric is a favorite coloring agent in Indian cuisine.
Cooking with Turmeric
Turmeric is typically used in savory dishes – although you’ll find it in some Middle Eastern confectionaries like sfouf, a Lebanese cake. The powder’s strong, intense flavors add slightly bitter and mustard-like flavors in dishes, and it is most commonly used in curries. The seasoning is popular in a variety of cuisines, including Indian, Thai, Lebanese and Cambodian cooking.
How do you use turmeric powder? The spice has many uses. It can serve as a seasoning for savory dishes, as a coloring agent, or for imparting a tangy, ginger-like flavor to any dish. A few common uses include:
- Coloring agent – The powder’s deep orange-yellow color is widely used to color dishes and drinks. Turmeric powder is found in sodas, ice cream, yogurt and breads as a coloring agent.
- Stews – Turmeric’s earthy notes complement hearty stews. It’s a primary ingredient in khoresh, an Iranian stew.
- Curries – Curry and turmeric are perfect bedfellows. The root’s warm notes add spice and mustard-like flavor to curries, and you’ll find it in numerous dishes, including kroeung (Cambodian curry paste) and Thai yellow curry.
- Spice Blends – Turmeric is found in numerous Middle Eastern spice blends. For example, it’s a key ingredient in Res el Hanout, a popular Moroccan spice, as well as in many different curry powders.
- Masalas – Masalas of all types feature turmeric, as the powder helps create depth of flavor.
- Rice – Yellow rice – a popular Thai dish – is commonly made with turmeric. The herb’s earthiness and curry-like flavors perfectly complement rice.
During preparation, be careful. Turmeric can stain your hands and clothing. So wear an apron!
Turmeric has a long history in cooking, folk medicine and as a dying agent. The earliest records date to 2500 B.C., as turmeric remnants have been found in numerous Indian archaeological digs. In fact, the spice earned the nickname the “spice of life,” during the Vedic period in India.
Why, exactly, was it the “spice of life?” Historians believe the powder’s vibrant color was associated with the sun, and historical records show that turmeric was commonly used in sun worshiping rituals. Yet, the spice was also a symbol of fertility, and many ancient Indian fertility rituals included turmeric.
The spice also has a long history in eastern medicine. In China, turmeric first arrived in the early years of the Middle Ages. The spice was used there to treat numerous conditions, primarily as an anti-inflammatory. The root was further distributed into Europe during the tail end of the Middle Ages. Marco Polo, in fact, described turmeric as sharing a flavor profile with saffron in the late 1200s.
Turmeric grows wildly throughout Southeast Asia, and it requires very specific growing conditions. The perennial herbaceous flower thrives in climates with plenty of rainfall and temperatures that range from 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s primarily grown in India’s southern, tropical provinces, which have humid climates and consistent rainfall. The state of Kerala – which produces some of the world’s best black pepper – is one of the world’s leading producers.
The plant grows to about 3 feet in height and features a sheath of green toothed green blades. The rhizome – or root – of the plant is harvested, after the plant goes to flower. Once harvested, the roots are sold fresh, or they’re dried and ground into the vibrant orange powder. Typically, growers dry the roots using ovens or over open flame.
About Our Turmeric
Indian is the world’s largest producer and consumer of turmeric, accounting for about 80% of the world’s output. Our turmeric is sourced from Allepeny, India, near Kerala. Our turmeric has an earthy, more rustic flavor, and it’s the best to use in curries.
We work with small independent Indian growers.