September 28, 2004 6:48 PM   Subscribe

MoreCookingfilter. Calling all cardomom experts.

So I became enamored of cardomom recently after having a pseudo-Indian rice dish in a bizarro restaurant in Rome. It was white rice with a bunch of stuff in it, more like Chinese fried rice than anything, but it was enfused with the heady scent of cardomom and had whole, seemingly fresh, pods mixed in. I've been trying to duplicate it with no success. I soaked dried pods, and they turned the same soft "fresh" texture, but no matter how many I throw into the rice (while cooking or after cooking), that overpowering cardomom flavor eludes me. I've tried soaking them, then frying them. I've tried steeping them in oil and using the oil. I've tried adding lots of ground cardomom. Nothing seems to work. Online recipes for cardomom rice all appear to be sweet, and I don't want sweet. Any suggestions?
posted by CunningLinguist to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh yikes. Cardamom. I knew it looked wrong. Don't I feel stupid?
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:51 PM on September 28, 2004

Best answer: You have to toast the cardamom seeds, then drop them into a mortar-and-pestle and grind them if you want your dish to get cardamomy, or just buy ground cardamom and toast it. They were probably using the pods for decoration and powder for flavor. You can use cardamom pods in something you're slow simmering for several hours, like curry, but you need powder if you want the flavor in a hurry.
posted by boaz at 7:50 PM on September 28, 2004 [1 favorite]

Best answer: With the green pods I use only the seeds inside, not the pods themselves. Pinch and roll the pods between your fingers until the tiny seeds fall out. Discard the pod. Grind the seeds. The seeds are very intensely flavored so one or two pods is probably all you'll want to use. Unfortunately this means you'll be working with a very small quantity of seeds which makes them difficult to work with. I grind the seeds in a spice grinder (well, really a coffee grinder) with some other grindable ingredient from the recipe to give me enough material so that I'm not collecting individual cardamom molecules from the inside of the grinder.

I find the powder a poor substitute for fresh pods - it doesn't have that ephemeral aromatic quality. Plus it is very expensive and has a short shelf life.
posted by TimeFactor at 7:55 PM on September 28, 2004

Response by poster: D'oh! I had the pods, and a packet of ground cardamom, but I didn't think to grind my own seeds - even though I do that when I make other indian dishes. Will try that. Thanks!
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:01 PM on September 28, 2004

Once, my stepmother made traditional pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving and mistakenly put in cardamom instead of cinnamon. Actually it was not bad at all - I kinda liked it.
posted by dnash at 8:29 PM on September 28, 2004

I got some truly good cardamom from a grocery on Devon Street (the heart of the subcontinental immigrant community here in Chicago.) The pods should be green, not the bleached white, and the best seeds are very dark brown, almost black, with a tiny bit of a sheen to them, and are tightly packed into the pod.

Also, the seeds grind beautifully in a mortar & pestle, and as a bonus you can easily open the pods by putting them on a cutting board & pressing down on them with the pestle. It takes me about six pods to get a quarter-teaspoon of seeds.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:49 PM on September 28, 2004 [1 favorite]

I suspect the dish you're referring to is Vietnamese - my Vietnamese friend's mother made it for me once, I recall it as one of the most delicious meals of my life.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:49 PM on September 28, 2004

Sounds like you are talking about a pulao or a biryani.. but most likely a vegitable pulao (a.k.a pillau, pilau, etc).

Grab an indian cookbook and you are set. The cookbook might refer to the cardamom as elachi.

I don't think you have to grind or toast the cardamom pods. Toss a few in whole, and then crack one open and put the seeds in. If you don't crack them open, you won't get that "overpowering cardamom flavor"...
posted by rajbot at 11:16 PM on September 28, 2004

We Indians will rarely use the seeds out of the pod. The seeds have a VERY strong flavour which might overwhelm a dish if used in excess, especially if ground.

Get a green pod, crush it lightly with the flat side of a knife or cleaver and toss it into the food.
posted by madman at 11:45 PM on September 28, 2004

On a related note, I was introduced to cardamom ice-cream at the Bombay ice creamery in SF. If you've never had it, run out right now and buy an ice-cream machine so you can make some. I find it works best in a philadelphia style recipe. It's delicious.
posted by treebjen at 7:43 AM on September 29, 2004

ground cardamom is good in hot tea, too.
posted by goethean at 2:10 PM on September 29, 2004

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