12 Nov2012

Some good friends, and clearly, intrepid wanderers, have recently returned from a trip to Nepal with these spices in tow. One of them had done a stunning trek through towns with no roads some two decades ago in Nepal and this time around, they managed to get places by vehicle, but the beauty and rural simplicity of the place has remained. They were so excited to present this jewel colored pouch filled with the most aromatic and smokey black cardamom, organic and fresh from the farm…

Often considered the poor sibling of the more well-known green cardamom, black cardamom is apparently used primarily in savory dishes, like curries, soups and stews. I have honestly never come across this spice in its natural form before, though I suspect I have enjoyed it is several dishes of Indian or even Indo-chinese origins. Some sources on the net say it is one of the distinct flavors in a good pho, for example… And it’s essential for that well-known Indian spice mixture, garam masala. Our friends suggested simply making a cup of black cardamom infusion, which Mrs. MM did last night, and liked it a lot.

The spice comes from what looks like a relative of a galanggal or ginger plant, but it isn’t the root that is used, but these (I presume) flower/seed pods. This stash we received was quite smokey, as they apparently dry the spice over an open, smoky fire. They were moist and fresh when first acquired, but have since been slightly dried out. Often described by others as having a camphor-like flavor, it is strong and can be overwhelming, so use with moderation.



  1. betty q. says:

    …an essential ingredient in making the Pho soup base, MM…in a cacha, a few black cardamom, star anise, cinnamon bark, a pinch of whole cloves tied in a bundle and simmered with blackened ginger an blackened whole onions….perfect for this cold winter days!!!!!

    Nov 12, 2012 | 5:47 am


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  3. JB says:

    Nepal is breathtaking. I traveled there alone in 1997, and to this day, it still remains one of the most magical experiences of my life. I talk about it frequently to my wife, whom I hope to take there in the not too distant future. There and Bhutan. :)

    Nov 12, 2012 | 8:24 am

  4. Papa Ethan says:

    Dried cardamom in a jewel-colored pouch from Nepal: how much more romantic can that get? It’s almost mythical. =)

    Nov 12, 2012 | 8:43 am

  5. PITS, MANILA says:

    i have only tried the green cardamom … experimented with tuna-curry (and garbansos) — it’s good! now wondering about the black one.

    Nov 12, 2012 | 9:56 am

  6. odie says:

    Your photography skills are getting better and better sir!!!! Wonderful pics!!

    Nov 12, 2012 | 10:29 am

  7. Josephine says:

    Well I’ve never had the good fortune to receive them like that, not having the right sort of friends obviously. But coincidentally I’ve spent the last two days trying to build up a ‘curry’ which everyone agrees just means sauce really. On a base of stock made from the shoulder bones of four lambs (months’ left of leftovers), cooked a curry paste with both the black and green cardamom plus all the usual suspects…white & black pepper, fennel seed, cumin, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, etc…put in fresh lamb neck chops, left and cleaned bathroom, ironed sheets, went to mass. Came home to a dinner the whole family approved of for once (they’re fussy). Tomorrow the remaining sauce is vegetarian curry with chickpeas and lentils, but if I have time, I’m going to teach myself to make garlic naan because I love them!

    Nov 12, 2012 | 11:51 am

  8. whackerZ says:

    Off topic but here goes:

    Digital Meat Thermometer — P200 at CD-R King

    Nov 12, 2012 | 4:24 pm

  9. rosedmd says:

    Indian tea!!!!!!!!!!! whenever i see cardamom, i associate it with indian tea.

    Nov 12, 2012 | 8:59 pm

  10. ConnieC says:

    I love cardamom, a favorite spice that so delicately flavors coffee breads in Scandinavia and tennis rolls in Jamaica. I still have green cardamom I brought from a trip from Nepal and now reminds me to make Finnish coffee bread.

    A Finnish nurse acquaintance would leave a loaf of this bread in my doorstep during the holidays when I used to live in Rochester, New York eons ago. This post is a wonderful reminder of that friendship. I am glad she shared her recipe with me.

    Nov 12, 2012 | 9:15 pm

  11. Ted says:

    @Bettyq, question, do i need to dry roast those spices first before i bundle them in a cacha? Also what type of beef bones would you recommend?

    Nov 13, 2012 | 7:59 am

  12. betty q. says:

    Hey, Ted…’musta na? Dry roasting to bring out the aroma of the spices…others put coriander seeds too but I am just too lazy just to get them at the store. We always have black cardamom pods available all the time at East Indian grocery stores…always have cinnamon bark and star anise in the pantry. As for the bones, I use shank, chicken bones….3 pounds of beef bones and 2 pounds of chicken bones for a huge stockpot of pho soup. I prefer to use shank so we can eat the meat when done…say about 3 hours to 4 hours. Do not forget to blanch all the bones first in boiling water. Gentle simmering is the key to a clear broth. I have a friend who owns a Vietnamese restaurant and she starts the broth at night and keeps the pot on a gentle simmer all night long to use the next day.

    Nov 13, 2012 | 12:57 pm

  13. Papa Ethan says:

    @betty q: what’s the principle behind “blanching the bones first”?

    Nov 13, 2012 | 11:32 pm

  14. JayVee says:

    Yum! Those friends bring some delicious pasalubong when they travel, don’t they?! Last month one of them brought me pumpkin seed oil from Germany. This is something I’d never heard of and it’s scrumptious (great word, scrumptious!) Wonderful in a salad dressing but I also drizzled some on pumpkin soup, then scattered toasted pumpkin seeds on top. A Pakistani friend uses black cardamoms and she always ‘crushes’ the pods by rolling them firmly between her hands before she uses them, to release the fragrance – she says her mother always taught her to do this.

    Nov 14, 2012 | 6:28 pm

  15. Ted says:

    @PapaEthan, blanching the bones removes the scum off the broth, I also do this when making sinigang using pork/beef spareribs or beef shank for bulalo soup, you get clear soup that way.

    Nov 15, 2012 | 10:25 am

  16. Papa Ethan says:

    Thanks, Ted! How neat. =)

    Nov 15, 2012 | 3:53 pm

  17. Shalimar says:

    Ah Nepal I was there last January… brings me back to my friends place, the kitchen smells so exotic with the Nepali lady brewing the tea with cardamon .!

    Nov 16, 2012 | 4:43 am

  18. Russell Tan says:

    Would anyone know where to buy Cardamom here in the Philippines? Tried the groceries and up scale supermarkets to no avail.

    Jan 17, 2013 | 6:28 pm


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