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What is Tempering Spices & Why do we do it?

tempering spices for curry

It is said that the soul of a curry is made when tempering your spices within the first 10 seconds of the cook.
But what exactly is tempering our spices, and why is it so important?

Tempering of spices is a traditional method  to extract the full flavour from spices and is also known as “Tadka”. 

At the beginning of the cook, whole or ground (powdered) spices are heated in hot oil which brings out the flavour in the spices -and carries it forward into the ‘essence’ of the dish.

For Durban Curries, traditionally spices such as cumin seeds (jeera), bay leaves, cardamom, chillies, mustard seeds & cloves are used to build the flavour of the curry.

Every curry chef has their own personal preference to what whole & powdered spices they temper for Durban Curry, so keep experimenting until you find your own special mixture.

Of course, you could simply use our Durban Curry Lovers, All-in-One Masala and you will not need to add any whole or powdered spices. If you would like to make your own masala (curry powder), then this article will show you how.

Here are some points to remember when tempering spices.

  • The oil must be very hot
  • Use sunflower oil, vegetable oil or Ghee. Olive oil is not good for tempering spices
  • Heat the oil and then add the spices. Experiment in which order gives you the flavour profile which you prefer
  • When the oil starts ‘shimmering’ it is ready
  • Reduce heat when you add your spices
  • Tempering should only take 5 – 10 seconds. When the whole seeds pop, they are tempered
  • Do not burn your spices. If they burn, start again as the burnt taste will ruin your dish
  • .After your spices have tempered, you can add your onions and continue with your method.
  • Do not even try to temper fresh herbs, add them at the end.

If you found this interesting, you may be interested in reading about the different smoke points of cooking oils and why we use them for different purpose.

If you have any questions about tempering spices or any other aspect of cooking curry, you are most welcome to join our group or wonderful member on our Facebook Group, ‘We are Durban Curry Lovers

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