The first and most important step for making #Navratan Korma is to make the base paste, which imparts flavor to the entire dish. In several forms of Asian cooking, a good spice paste makes up the base of your dish that you then add liquid and other solid ingredients to (e.g. meat, vegetables, etc.)
One requirement for making paste is getting all of the ingredients that you have very finely minced, or in powder form. In a small kitchen with limited appliances, there is no blender or food processor, so that means you need to mince by hand, or use powdered ingredients to start with where possible. For the Korma, I used both.
The fresh ingredients I used were ginger and green chili. Why? Because fresh chili and ginger add different dimensions to your dish that you will not get from a powder, add a hint of texture to the paste, and are major components to the paste so there is a bit more bang for the buck relative to some of the other ingredients. If you are so inclined, however, you could use more fresh ingredients, and it would probably improve your paste.
The powdered ingredients used include: cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and a hint of sugar and salt. There are other more exotic ingredients you could certainly add here (I’m looking at you, hing), but again, it would be only a minor improvement over these base flavors listed.
To make enough paste for 2 people, I used half of one chili (serrano peppers work well, but adjust the specific chili to your desired heat level) and about 1/4 inch of ginger. I like it spicy, so I did not seed the chili, but if you prefer things a bit milder, here is how to do it:
- Roll the pepper between your hands
- Cut off the end of the pepper by the stem
- Turning the pepper with the open side down over the sink, continue rolling the pepper in between your hands until all the seeds come out
After you mince the pepper finely, you will want to peel the outside of the ginger. Without a peeler, you can use a knife to do it. Simply make very fine cuts on the outside of the ginger until all the skin has been removed. Tedious, but it works. Mince the ginger finely and throw it in a bowl with the pepper.
Next add all of the powdered ingredients. For this recipe, that means:
- 1/2 tbsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- pinch turmeric
Mix everything together well with a spoon. To turn your powdered mix into a paste, simply add 1 tbsp water and stir until you have an even consistency.
In case you haven’t yet – TASTE! This is a super concentrated form of what you will have later, so make sure you taste just a very tiny bit of it, but this is the time for course corrections on any ingredients if necessary.