Technique: Tadka

The more we cook, the more we discover that good flavor can be achieved through simple methods.

Tadka is one of them. It’s the straightforward process of flavoring oil or ghee by cooking it with whole spices and aromatics before adding it to a dish, a process also known tempering spices.

You’ve tasted the results of tadka in Indian, Banglaeshi, and other cuisines. Cooking whole spices before folding them into a dal or curry makes the flavor rounder, more robust, more at home in the dish.

Why do tempered spices create such satisfying results?

The secret is in the science. Tempered spices release their essential oils, filling your kitchen with a toasty fragrance and bringing spice flavors forward. It’s a class-A comfort food trick.

Ghee (clarified butter) is the traditional choice. If you opt for oil, choose one with a higher smoke point, such as grape seed, coconut, or vegetable oil. Heat ghee or oil in a small saucepan or your cooking pot then add whole spices and aromatics. Cook for a minute or so before removing from the heat. Spices burn quickly, so don’t walk away from the stove.

Tadka is often added to a dish just before serving but can also be prepared as a first step before cooking the rest of the ingredients. Make this yellow lentil Tadka Dhal or this Cauliflower Chickpea Curry to try out the technique and create a warming weeknight meal.

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