Many flavorful dishes throughout India and Southeast Asia are vibrantly yellow hued.
The intense color and subtle earthy taste often come from turmeric, a small rhizome in the same family as ginger. Although it can be bought fresh in some ethnic groceries, most often the spice is used as a powder. In either form, it’s quite potent: a little goes a long way and the flavor intensifies during cooking. Dried turmeric is the key component in curry powder.
Beyond adding color and taste, curcumin, the powerful chemical in turmeric that produces its bright yellow color, is credited with numerous health benefits. In India, where it’s a staple, research shows a markedly lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in the population. It’s also said to inhibit the growth of several cancers, help control inflammation, and promote healing in wounds. Not surprising, sales of the supplement in health food stores are escalating.
In prepared foods, turmeric can add style and health-promoting benefits in several ways. To preserve curcumin’s beneficial properties, the powder is best added toward the end of cooking as it doesn’t respond well to extended periods of high heat. Simmering is fine, and adding an acid like vinegar, tomatoes, or citrus juice also seems to protect it. Like many spices, turmeric is best stored in a cool, dark place.
Here are three recipes featuring turmeric.