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What Is Masala?

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An accomplished information technology (IT) administrator, Graeme Queen has directed IT solution delivery for Portland, Oregon’s Standard Insurance Company since 2017. In his home life, he has recently begun to cook after previously avoiding the kitchen for years. Motivated by his love of Indian cuisine, Graeme Queen has learned to make chicken tikka masala.

While the “tikka” in chicken tikka masala simply refers to the small chunks of meat, the term “masala” is a bit more complex. In chicken tikka masala, “masala” refers to the unique mix of spices that flavor the creamy, orange-colored, yogurt- and tomato-based sauce. In addition to flavoring savory dishes with rice, masala can make a strong and fragrant chai-style tea.

Loosely translated as “spice,” the word “masala” typically defines a mixture of spices that combine to make a distinctive curry powder. While there is no single, universally recognized recipe for masala, it generally contains cardamom, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. Other common masala ingredients include ginger and turmeric.