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In Reply to: Benefits of Frying Spices; Part 2 posted by Don, Dueling Bubbas on July 30, 2014 at 12:17:55:
2. Bhunooing, or slow-frying with onion
While this process also uses onion and spices, it is a different procedure with a different outcome: Its purpose is to build the flavors of a dish gradually. Made with a larger quantity of oil, bhunooing is a slow process in which the oil is first heated until smoking, then the heat is lowered and whole spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cumin, anise, and dried bay leaves are fried gently, allowing them to gradually change color. If onions are used, they are added just after the spices have had a few seconds in the hot oil and then, over low heat, cooked until they turn a beautiful golden brown color.
Bhunooing results in creamy, rich gravies, thanks to the gentle extraction of essential oils from the spices and the slow cooking of the onions until they are melting and sweet. This method does not require grinding, so to get the beautiful hues of a curry, powdered spices, such as red chili powder, turmeric, and coriander, are often added right at the end of the slow-frying process. Special care must be taken, since the powdered spices are fragile and can scorch easily.
The aroma of a tadka (tempered spices) is irresistible: It fills a room instantly, a sort of crazy dinner theater for the nose. A tadka is typically made after the dish has been cooked, and is added almost as a garnish of aromatic spice. To make a tadka, a tablespoon or two of oil or ghee is heated until smoking. Then small quantities of whole spices like cumin, black mustard, dry red chillies, cinnamon, and cardamom are added to it. Unlike the slow-frying method, here the heat is kept high and the spices are allowed to splatter and splutter, sizzle and pop as they release their aromas into the fat. This piping hot oil is then poured directly onto the waiting dish, which launches a whole new round of sizzling and crackling. It is usually done to liven up a dish and add more aroma. Tadkas bring a subtle spiciness to a dish, that, with each tadka-spiked spoonful, offers an understated reminder of the spices that went into it.
Stay tuned for an upcoming installment on blending spices. In the meantime, look at my recipes for some ideas on how to practice these methods at home.
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