Tadka or tempering of spices has been an unskippable part of Indian cuisine, from the north to the south. Whether you add it at the beginning or the end or with any other ingredients or spices, tempering brings out the mirth in an otherwise dull dish.
So what is Tadka? Tadka is the process whereby ghee or oil is heated – not too smoky nor too cold. Once the oil is hot enough, mustard seeds are added.
After enjoying the crackle of mustard seeds popping, you can add spices and other ingredients (like curry leaves) depending upon what you are cooking. And be sure not to overdo and burn anything. Now splash the hot mixture over your dish and you are done – that’s a tadka!
But is it even healthy to dose your food with ghee and oil – just to bring out that unique Indian flavour? Well, it turns out tadka is done not just for the taste alone, but for its health benefits as well!
To know why it is healthy, you have to know about a phenomenon in the human body. Fats are a crucial part of nutrient absorption. Certain vitamins, like vitamin A, D, E, and K, are fat-soluble, which means that your body can only absorb them from the digestive system if you eat them with fats.
The fat content in the food you eat makes fat-soluble nutrients more bioavailable– meaning it is readily available to the body to process.
And according to the nutritional profile of spices like cumin, chillies, turmeric and mustard seeds, vitamins A, D, E and K are present abundantly across these spices.
During tadka or tempering, the fat content is satiated by the oil. And when heated with the spices, a breakdown occurs and the released vitamins are absorbed by the oil or ghee. This, when consumed, makes it easier for the body to process these vitamins, or in other words, it is more bioavailable.
And not only that, a study showed that when spices like turmeric and pepper are cooked for longer periods of time, their active ingredients (curcumin and piperine) are reduced.
The study found that cooking for 30 minutes reduced the content of curcumin by 86 – 91% while the loss of piperine was in the range of 53 – 62%. But while tempering, these active ingredients are retained – which is a good thing.
So go ahead and add some tadka to your food and your health.
*SAFETY WARNING: Be careful when adding spices or ingredients to hot oil during tempering as the popping may cause skin burns.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)