What To Look For
Cardamom is sold both as whole seed pods and as a ground powder. It is always preferable to buy the seed pods as the intense aromas of the essential oils contained in the seeds evaporate relatively fast once they are ground.
The powder is also less desirable as it contains not just the seeds but also the tasteless pod shells. Look for seed pods with a bright green color as an indicator of quality and freshness.
How To Use It
Whole cardamom pods are best gently smashed with a mortar and pestle. The seeds can then either be used whole or ground up.
Cardamom is widely used in various sweet and savory dishes in India and Sri Lanka. In India, it is used to flavor the famous biryani, rice cooked in clay pots with spices, vegetables, and meat. In Sri Lanka, it is a popular ingredient for chicken and beef curries along with cinnamon. A number of different sweets across the Indian subcontinent are flavored with cardamom, such as gajar halva and shrikhand.
Cardamom is sometimes used in curry powder and in garam masala, a spice mixture from northern India. In Kashmir, green tea flavored with cardamom is a popular drink. Elsewhere in India, black tea and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, and black pepper are boiled with water and milk and sweetened with sugar to make chai masala, or spiced tea.
In Arabic countries, cardamom is often used to flavor coffee, called qahwa al-arabiya. It is also an ingredient in various spice mixes, such as the Saudi Arabian baharat, the Ethiopian berbere, the Moroccan ras el hanout, and zhoug, a spice paste from Yemen. Another popular use is in savory meat and rice dishes, including Turkish pilav, Iranian polo, and Arabic kabsah.
In Europe, cardamom is mainly used for Christmas cookies such as Lebkuchen (ginger bread) or Spekulatius. In Scandinavian countries it is also used in sausages and glĂ¶gg (Swedish spiced wine).