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Cardamom pods (Recipe: prawn fried rice)


If I had a dollar for every item in The Perfect Pantry that's reputed to be an aphrodisiac, I'd be able to take my husband out for a swanky night on the town.

Add cardamom pods to the list of "love" spices.

Native to south India, cultivated now in Guatemala, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania, cardamom is one of the world's most ancient, and most expensive, spices.

A member of the ginger family, cardamom has been used in India for more than 2,000 years. It reached Constantinople (Istanbul) via the spice trail; to this day, Turkish coffee is often poured over a cardamom pod inserted in the spout of the coffee pot. From there, the Vikings brought cardamom to Scandinavia, where it is still a popular flavoring in baked goods.

Cardamom pods are harvested in the Fall, when they are nearly ripe. They're left to dry in the sun for 3-4 days. Inside each pod are 15-20 tiny, brown or black, sticky seeds; the stickier the seed, the fresher the pod. 

With its somewhat lemony and smoky flavor, cardamom is a key ingredient in many curry powders and masala spice blends. The whole pods, lightly crushed, are used to flavor rice, slow-braised meat dishes, and lentils.

The pods will keep for a year or more in an airtight container, though they'll slowly fade in both color (see photo above — these really are green pods, but I've had them for quite a while) and aroma.

I keep whole pods and Penzeys' ground cardamom in my pantry, because you never know when you'll need an aphrodisiac.

Prawn fried rice

Years ago I learned this recipe from Nagina Kalam, who was living in Boston for a year while her husband completed post-doctoral work. She met a group of young moms at the local playground, and they enlisted her to teach a series of Indian cooking classes. This main dish recipe serves 6, as part of a traditional Indian meal featuring turdal (yellow lentils) and saag paneer (spinach with cheese).


2 lbs prawns (large shrimp, 26-30 size), peeled and deveined
1 tsp turmeric
1-1/2 tsp paprika
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 tsp GGC (ginger-garlic-cilantro) paste*
7 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter
3 cups basmati rice
6 Tbsp corn oil
2 whole cardamom pods, slit lengthwise
1 stick cinnamon
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
6 bay leaves
1 onion, sliced thin
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 jalapeño chile, sliced


*To make GGC paste: Combine 4 whole heads garlic, peeled and minced; 1 “hand” (whole piece) ginger, peeled and grated; and 1 bunch cilantro, minced, in a blender, and process until the mixture forms a paste. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

Wash the prawns, and mix with your hands in a large bowl with turmeric, 1-1/2 tsp paprika, 1-1/2 tsp salt, and GGC paste. Set aside to marinate. In a large pot, combine 7 cups water with 1 tsp salt and butter. Bring to the boil, and add the rice. When the water returns to the boil, cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated. In the meantime, make the masala: in a frying pan, heat 5 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat, and add cardamom, cinnamon and garlic cloves. Stir, and add bay leaves, onions, garam masala, 1/2 tsp paprika and yogurt. Continue to cook 4-5 minutes, and stir in half of the marinated shrimp. Cook for 2 minutes until shrimp are done, and combine mixture with the rice. Garnish with jalapeño. In a separate frying pan, heat remaining 1 Tbsp oil, and saute remaining shrimp until golden. Serve as a garnish over the rice. 

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Now you just made soooo curious - I've never tasted cardamom!
I have lots of recipes that call for it but haven't tried them yet. I have to find out where to buy good cardamom pods here and try something asap! :D

This prawn rice must be delicious.

hmmn, that's one spice I don't have in my pantry yet. An aphrodisiac eh,that's very useful information ;D.

A big pinch of cardamon (and a dash of cognac or liquer) in addition to whatever other spices are called for are the secret ingredients in my pies. Not being a taste expert, all I can say is that the two used together in pie add a subtle "underbody" flavor and richness to pie.

Lydia, that sounds wonderful, and I actually have all those ingredients in my pantry today! thanks!
Like Mary, I use ground cardamom in fruit pies. It's especially good with rhubarb.

I love cardamom but have only ever used it in baked goods as taught to me by my paternal grandmother who came to America via Finland. Here is a link to her braided coffee bread http://www.tomsaaristo.com/cardamom_coffee_cake.html

Thanks for the memory!

I bookmarked this partly for the recipe, which sounds v. good, but also for the nifty idea of the garlic-ginger-cilantro paste, because I'm always trying to find ways of preserving cilantro from my garden.

Patricia, I'm a big fan of fried rice dishes for dinner, and this one is a bit unusual, not like the Chinese fried rice we're used to. I think you'll like it.

Veron, no kidding, almost every "warm" spice has some history as an aphrodisiac!

Mary and Marcia, you are both such great bakers.

Tom, thank you so much for sharing your grandmother's recipe. It looks wonderful, and cardamom cakes are especially delicious in the winter -- again, it's that "warm" spice thing.

Lucette, welcome to The Perfect Pantry! The GGC paste seems to work well in so many dishes. Please let me know if it works for you.

mmm...prawn fried rice sounds TOO good!

I love cardamom. It is great in coffee. I am always asked for the following recipe, and it is really easy. Last week, I got a frantic call from the airport. A friend's 93 year-old mother had been at the airport all day waiting for a minor repair on a plane, it was 6pm, and they had just been told that the plane would not be able to take off at all. She was desparate, as her mom could not be left in an airport hotel all night. I invited them over, popped this cobbler in the oven, made the guest bed. By the time they got here 40 minutes later, the fruit and cardamom scented the air, the chicken and mushroom pasta was ready, and the hot tea with lemon was ready to be poured. Grace had dinner, eating every bite, took a shower, and was in bed by 8pm. She had such a happy smile on her face as we tucked her in...and I suspect the cardamom was most of the pleasure!

Fruit Cobbler
From the Elsah Landing Cookbook by Dorothy Lindgren (Slight alterations by Candy)

Preheat oven to 325 F

Butter a 9-inch pie pan or deeper dish (I use a French straight sided dish about 2 inches deep)

Place 4 cups of fruit in buttered dish: In the fall I use 3-4 fresh pears, cardamom & crystallized ginger. Apples and plums with cinnamon and cardamom, or mangos with freshly grated nutmeg, lime and fresh ginger. I also mix fruit such as plums and blackberries, raspberries and peaches etc. you may top with 1/2 cup nuts, chopped.

Batter: 1-cup flour
3/4-cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten lightly

Combine this batter by: Melting butter, cooling slightly and adding sugar till blended. Add flour and eggs alternately just until mixed (do not beat). Use a spatula to smooth this batter over the fruit.

Bake 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy! Serves 8 to 12 easily.

Jeff, it IS yummy. Not like Chinese fried rice, though.

Candy, what a wonderful recipe! Thank you so much.


I always think of cardamom as a sweet spice. I'll have to see what it can do for a curry!

Hmmm! cardamom and rhubarb --- I'll have to try it this spring in my signature rhubarb marmalade. I would try it now but I've eaten all the marmalade that was in my freezer.

Hmm. I may start serving it nightly.

Cardomom and rhubard sounds wonderful.

Catherine, please try it -- it pushes the curry in a more warm direction, and is absolutely lovely.

Pauline, I always look forward to your marmalade -- a sure sign of spring!

Mimi, one can never have too many aphrodisiacs....

Interesting. I've never used these before!

Linda, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. There are so many wonderful vegetarian recipes that use cardamom, so I'm sure you'll come across it in your cooking.

Cardomom not only used as a spice. me being a native south indian we used as a mouth refresher after a meanl. And interesting thing it controls Nausea . the times you have eaten too much eat one pod and see the difference. it calms your stomach. I have eaten so many that i cant even count during my pregnancy . i had nausea for 9 whole months and cardomom helped. try it you will know

Shu, welcome to The Perfect Pantry, and thanks for sharing this tip about cardamom pods. I never knew that they were a cure for nausea. Do you also use them for cooking?

I live in Roseville Michigan. Where can I purchase Cardamom? Any suggestions? Thank you. I can't wait to try this spice.

Vicki, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. You can buy cardamom online from Penzeys (http://www.penzeys.com); they are very reliable and have great quality spices.

I _love_ cardamom pods. They are my favorite smelling dried spice in the world. Almost, almost the favorite smell (that goes to garlic and onions frying in oil... or bacon... or anything smoking in a smoker... or or or)

If you cook any sort of indian food, look into making homemade garam masala. It uses a boatload of cardamom pods (I mix 3/4 black, 1/4 green) for mine. Tasty.

Cardamom is my new favorite spice. I've found it works beautifully with vanilla and peaches. I even made and canned a bunch of homemade Vanilla-Cardamom Peach Chutney a few weeks ago. YUM!

I do have one question, though. Now, I have white cardamom, and I have green cardamom, but I have never chanced to use *brown* cardamom pods. How are they different from the white and green pods? Does it taste any different? Or does cardamom by any other color taste as sweet?

M, welcome to The Perfect Pantry, and thanks for sharing your secret to great garam masala. (and yes, anything done on the grill, or onions, or apples baking.... well, those are my favorite smells, too.)

Tom, you sent me to the books to check before answering this one. Green cardamom and black cardamom are two distinctly different plants. White cardamom is green cardamom that has been bleached. Brown cardamom is another name for black cardamom, which is the one more commonly used in making garam masala. According to Jill Norman's Herbs and Spices, which is an essential reference in my library, green cardamom is considered a "cooling" spice, while black is considered a "heating" spice.

Where can I find cardamom pods in the Worcester Ma. Area

Cin, try Ed Hyders Mediterranean Marketplace in Worcester. I've never been there, but Nika of Nikas Culinaria recommended it to me.

Cardamon is MMmm... perfect with oxtail stew! Any beef, lamb stew or chicken soups! Because the spice compliments vegetables when they are simmered with rich meats. I dont know how it tastes with pork. Im not a pork eater. I know it is a rich spice,so I keep it with the best!

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