Masala is a word on every Indian menu, from spicy chicken tikka to milky chai tea. So what does it mean?

A masala refers to a blend of spices signature to Indian and other South Asian cuisines, ranging from a mixture of a few elements to over a dozen. Garam masala is the most popular type (garam meaning “mixed”) and is used extensively across India, containing up to 12 ingredients. There are many variations, but common spices include black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, mace, coriander, cloves, cumin, cardamom, fennel, nutmeg, star anise and dried chiles.  If you come across garam masala in a recipe, you can buy it pre-made, or, if you’re feeling ambitious, custom-make your own — it’ll last up to six months. 

Use today’s Word of the Day: Tomato Chickpea Curry with Chicken