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Asian Ingredients

Spice Series: Turmeric Recipes

What It Is: Part of the ginger family, turmeric is a deep orange-yellow powder. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has an earthy, slightly bitter, and peppery taste and a mustard-like scent.

Origin: Turmeric grows wild in the forests of South Asia, most specifically Indonesia and southern India, where it’s been harvested for over 5,000 years. Today, commercial producers of the spice include India, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Haiti, and Jamaica. The Indian city of Nizamabad is the world’s largest producer of turmeric and is an important trading center for the spice.

What It’s Used In: Turmeric is commonly used to flavor curries and other Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. Outside of South Asia, turmeric is used to give a rich yellow color to ballpark mustard, canned beverages, ice cream, yogurt, yellow cake, orange juice, popcorn, candy, frosting, cereals, and gelatin.

Body benefits: Turmeric is an excellent source of manganese and iron. The spice has long been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat conditions such as jaundice, toothaches, bruises, and colic. Research today suggests that curcumin - the active ingredient in turmeric - has anti-inflammatory properties that may alleviate symptoms of a variety of conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and cystic fibrosis. Since curcumin is also an antioxidant, it may help fend off cancer as well.

Fun Fact: Turmeric became known as “Indian saffron” during medieval times, since it was widely used as an alternative to pricey saffron threads.

10 Turmeric Recipes to Try

  • Golden-Brown Tofu with Green Papaya Noodle Salad  This refreshing salad has sour, salty, spicy, and nutty flavors.
  • Khao Soi A noodle soup recipe from a village in northern Thailand.
  • Bombay Aloo  A delicious side dish, usually eaten with other curries and rice. 
  • Saag Paneer  A very popular vegetarian dish from India. 
  • Simple Chicken Curry  Though this is a curry, very little spice is used. Instead flavor is created by caramelizing onions, garlic and chili paste.
  • Traditional Fish Noodle Soup  This noodle soup is considered the national dish of Burma and is eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 
  • Lauki Channa Dal  This Indian dish has a unique nutty taste. You can eat it by itself as soup or enjoy as a side dish.
  • Beef Rendang The key to making this rich dish delicious is slow cooking the beef in coconut milk and spices.
  • Zucchini, Lentils, and Roasted Garlic An easy meatfree Indian dish perfect for summer months when squash is in season.
  • Haldi Mirchi Squid  This dish, which consists of squid cooked in Indian spices, can be made with different types of seafood including crab, prawns, or mussels.
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