Why turmeric is becoming more popular

Turmeric has a long history in Asian cuisine and traditional medicine, but it’s been making huge inroads in American kitchens over the past couple years and culinary students should take note.

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April 9, 2018 4 min read

Earthy spices are currently having a big moment in the U.S. As Bon Appetit noted, many chefs and health-conscious diners have embraced the tastes and nutritional benefits of matcha, spirulina and turmeric. These ingredients can add new dimensions to your dishes and attract attention from ardent supporters of this trend.

For Austin culinary arts students, turmeric may prove particularly worthy of your attention. The spice has a long history in Asian cuisine and traditional medicine, but it’s been making huge inroads in American kitchens over the past couple years. When you explore what this root has to offer, you may find a variety of ways to incorporate it into your recipes.

Why this spice is catching on in the U.S.

“Turmeric contributes a yellow color and peppery flavor.”

Related to ginger, turmeric has a range of culinary purposes, contributing a yellow color, peppery flavor and mustard-like scent. The rhizomes – a type of underground stem – are boiled, dried out and then ground into a powder for easy use. In this form, turmeric commonly appears as an element in curry powder alongside other standbys like chilis, coriander, cumin, fenugreek and other ingredients.

Beyond its utility as a coloring and flavoring agent, turmeric is widely believed to have various health benefits because it contains a chemical called circumin. As the National Institutes of Health explained, preliminary research has suggested that circuminoids might in fact have positive results in applications like reducing heart attacks in bypass patients and alleviating joint pain. Many fans say that the root itself has anti-inflammatory properties, but the NIH warned that this claim is not yet supported by strong scientific studies.

Since turmeric contains limited amounts of this chemical, it’s not clear that having a little in your tea or curry will make a big impact on your well-being. In any case, it’s a safe and distinctive addition to dishes that could bring popularity among people who are focused on maintaining a nutritious diet.

Turmeric latte on cafe tableTurmeric is a great addition to a variety of foods and beverages.

Putting turmeric to work with chicken

To illustrate how turmeric can put an intriguing spin on a simple dish, try a recipe for spiced up chicken and rice provided by Food & Wine. Cut a chicken into eight pieces, seasoning them with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven, and add 1.5 teaspoons of turmeric.

Set the heat to medium-high, placing the chicken in the pot with the skin down. Cook for eight minutes, turning halfway through so all sides are browned. Move the chicken onto a plate.

Throw ginger, onion and garlic into the Dutch oven and stir occasionally as they cook for five minutes. Add jasmine rice with curry powder, tomatoes, cumin and cinnamon and stir for the next minute. When the mixture is fragrant, return the chicken to the pot with the skin up, plus bay leaves, fish sauce and chicken stock.

Raising the temperature to high, bring the mixture to a boil. Then, reduce heat, cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Move the lid so the Dutch oven is partially covered and cook another 10 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.

Remove the pot from heat and rest for five minutes. Serve with cucumbers, yogurt, lime and mint.

You can find a place for turmeric in many other foods, whether preparing a soup, salad dressing or pork marinade. However you choose to incorporate this spice, you’ll find it grabs diners’ attention with its unique color and taste. Get onboard with one of today’s hottest flavor and health trends by experimenting with turmeric in a dish or beverage.

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