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Cardamom: Wake Up Your Taste Buds
Elettaria cardamomum • Sanskrit: Ela • Hindi: Choti elaichi
Cardamom is equal in standing to ginger as a classic masala chai spice. Even if you use only these two spices in your chai, you can create a tasty, well-balanced brew. Cardamom is traditionally used to improve one’s taste sensation. Added to chai, it can open your taste buds, allowing you to truly appreciate a delicious batch of chai. It also counteracts the mucus-forming properties of milk, making it a balancing addition to a milky chai with the added benefit of freshening the breath.
Cardamom is useful for those suffering from asthma, breathlessness or bronchitis. It is also used to alleviate colds and cough and as an expectorant to expel phlegm. Cardamom is recommended as an herbal remedy for many symptoms of digestive upset, including indigestion, nausea, vomiting, belching, flatulence, bloating, colic and acid reflux.
For the best-tasting masala chai, use whole, plump, green cardamom pods. The whole pod can be ground up in a spice or coffee grinder. When using a mortar and pestle, smash the pods, remove the brown seeds from within and grind them to a powder. The green shells can either be tossed in the pot or discarded. If you cannot find the whole pods, the decorticated seeds (pod removed) can be used but may lack the fresh flavor of the sealed pod. It is not worth buying the powder, because it oxidizes quickly after being ground and has already lost its potency on the shelf. I have found that it is best not to boil the cardamom but to add it to the masala after turning off the heat and letting it steep. The volatile oils, and with them the flavor and medicinal value, diminish with boiling.