The Quintessential Tadka

How do you increase the antioxidants in your food? How do you increase the flavor, fragrance and taste of your food? How do you increase the therapeutic value of your food? The answer to all these questions is the same: ‘Tempering the spices’

Tadka a.k.a thaalippu/thalimpu/oggarane in different languages is the tempering of spices in heated oil. This can be done either at the start or at the end of cooking. I have always loved the sizzling sound of my mom’s tadka while making rasam and sambar, not to mention the aroma that fills the house. The smell and sound also indicates that the food is now ready to be served, which increases the enzyme activity in mouth

 Is this relevant in an era of cutting edge modern nutrition science? Our ancestors knew, several thousand years ago, that when added to hot oil/ghee, spices release  their essential oil and flavonoids.  Additionally, the oils are an easy medium to extract and carry these. It increases the flavor and the therapeutic value of the food. Spices like cumin, fennel, turmeric, ginger, asafetida etc increase the digestive power and immunity, whereas the herbs like cilantro, dry fenugreek leaves(methi), curry leaf etc increase the nutrient and antioxidant value. The properties of each and every spice used in our cuisines cannot be detailed in a single post. This explains why traders crossed oceans, several centuries ago, to buy these spices.

The tempering with oil and spices, also reduces the GI (Glycemic index is the rate at which glucose is released into blood) of the food, which will aid in fat loss and increase our immunity.  This is a main reason, why you shouldn’t eat plain boiled vegetables/salads and other bland food for the sake of weight loss.

Care should be taken to not burn the spices as it will spoil not just the taste but also the therapeutic value. The oils used for the tempering plays a big role. Some of the oils that are new to our cuisine, such as olive oil, should not be heated to such high temperatures. Using oils that were traditionally used in our native cuisine (example coconut, sesame, peanut, mustard oil) are the best oils for this purpose.

Spice up your food and your Life.

Do you love the smell of tadka?

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