Garam masala (Hindi) is a blend of dry-roasted
ground spices common in Pakistani/Indian
cuisine, whose literal meaning is 'hot
spices'. There are many variants: most traditional
mixes use just cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg (and/or mace),
black pepper and green cardamom seed or black cardamom
pods. Many commercial mixtures may include more of other
less expensive spices and may contain dried red chili
peppers, dried garlic, ginger powder, sesame, mustard
seeds, turmeric, coriander, cloves, black pepper, cardamom,
cinnamon, bay leaves, cumin, nutmeg, and fennel. While
commercial garam masala preparations can be bought ready
ground, it does not keep well, and soon loses its aroma.
It is much better to buy the whole spices, which keep
fresh much longer, and to grind them when needed using
a pestle or electric coffee grinder.
Garam masala can be used during cooking, but unlike
many spices, it is often added at the end of cooking,
so that the full aroma is not lost. Garam masala is
not "hot" in the sense that chilis are, but
is fairly pungent.