Black/Brown Cardamom Pods

You have encountered it many times when you are devouring your favorite Indian curry. It is black (darkish brown), has an intense aroma, and you just can't miss its overpowering taste. Yes, you got it, it is black cardamom. Black cardamoms are a famous Pakistani and Indian spice also known as kali elaichi or badi elaichi. They are a staple ingredient in Pakistani and Indian cuisine, and their distinctive flavor profile makes them a top favorite among chefs all over the world.

What does black cardamom taste like, where do they come from, and how can you use them? We will be spilling the beans on all these cardamom spice questions and more, so let's get started:

What Is Black Cardamom?

So what exactly is this flavor-packed and intensely aromatic spice?

Black cardamom is a star ingredient in several savory dishes owing to their intense aroma and taste. They are in the form of a whole bud and contain several tiny seeds. Even though they are famously called ‘black,’ their true color is dark brown. Speaking of texture, they have a wrinkly and rough exterior.

Many people are of the impression that green cardamoms and black cardamoms are related, but in reality, they belong to different plants and have different tastes. Both the black cardamom and its seeds are used when making lip-smacking meals.

Types Of Black Cardamom

When it comes to the types of black cardamom, there are two most prominent species, amomum tsao-ko, and amomum subulatum. The one used for cooking Pakistani and Indian dishes is amomum subulatum which is smaller in size. Amomum tsao-ko, on the other hand, is mainly used for making Chinese cuisine.

You will be surprised to know that there is an African type as well called Afra­momum, which is found in Somalia, Cameroon, and Madagascar. The type found in West Africa is known as 'grains of paradise' that have made its way into the Western Market.

How Does Cardamom Taste Like?

The method of drying them is over an open fire, which is where they get their distinct smoky cardamom taste and scent from. Moreover, they have hints of camphor and resin along with a tinge of menthol. These strong and intense notes are the reason that cardamom spice is classified as a warming spice, just like cloves and black pepper.

How To Cook Using Black Cardamom?

So how do you make tantalizing meals using black cardamom? Do you add them at the beginning of your cooking process or the end? The most common practice is to use them whole along with other whole spices. Sometimes the large cardamom pods are broken to get the seeds out from inside.

If a recipe needs black cardamom powder, take the seeds out and discard the outer skin. Then grind the seeds and immediately use the powder. Another way is to grind the whole pod and then remove the skin by straining the powder. When using its powder form, always remember that a little goes a long way, so only add cardamom spice in small amounts.

Now let’s look at how you can use black cardamom in different dishes:

 

  • Black cardamoms are used to make the ever-so-famous 'garam masala powder,' which is an essential spice mix used in Indian and Pakistani cooking.
  • No broth for rice dishes is complete without having its fair share of black cardamoms.
  • Black cardamoms are used while making gravies and curries to give them their splendid taste.
  • Black cardamom powder pairs really well with cinnamon powder, and both are used together to create lip-smacking desserts.
  • You can add black cardamom to any slow-cooked rice and meat dishes to give them the perfect smokey taste.

Quick tips:

When using black cardamoms for your cooking rendezvous, remember to keep the following tips in mind:

  • If you hate the bitter taste of black cardamoms when eating your meals, it is a good idea to remove them when serving your prepared meal.
  • The skin of black cardamoms is quite thick and rough, which makes them difficult to grind. Before using it for making any spice blend, make sure you remove its outer skin. 
  • If you aren't a big fan of using whole black cardamoms, you can always take the seeds out and grind them to make a powder. However, remember that their skin is responsible for releasing the earthy, smoky aroma they are famous for.

Where Can You Get Black Cardamoms From?

Black cardamom pods are readily available at gourmet markets, Indian stores, and well-known grocery shops. You can easily spot them in the spice aisle. Make sure you always go for whole cardamom pods instead of their seeds, as they quickly lose their potency once the skin is removed. This is another solid reason why it is recommended to buy whole cardamom pods instead of the powder. When choosing back cardamoms, make sure you choose those that are plump, dry, firm, and well-formed.

Once you get them, make sure you store them in an airtight container and keep it away from direct sunlight. When stored properly, whole pods should last you a year.

Health Benefits Of Using Black Cardamoms:

  • Black cardamoms are loaded with fiber that aid in digestion. Research proves that chewing black cardamom forms saliva that helps with digestion.
  • They are known to give your body a detox and flush out all the harmful toxins from your body.
  • Black cardamom is famous for treating respiratory issues like asthma, cough, and chest infection.
  • Besides giving your body a detox, black cardamom has a very high level of vitamin C and antiviral properties. This is why cardamom spice gives your immunity a good boost.

Conclusion

Black cardamoms rank high among essential spices that have been in use for centuries. Not only do they impart an impeccable taste in dishes, but they have several health benefits too. Whether you are making a chicken curry, mutton stew, or an aromatic rice dish, black cardamoms will be the star of the show.