Of course it is well known that the Indian Subcontinent was ruled by the British, but not so recognised is the fact that a few small areas of India were under French control. The most prominent of these small outposts was the city of Pondicherry, on the coast of Tamil Nadu south of Chennai (Madras), where even today the French influence remains strong.
Vadouvan, or French Masala, is one of the culinary legacies of French rule. It is basically a French take on an Indian masala, and it is bursting with the aromatic and vibrant flavours of both cuisines. Shallots, onion and garlic combine with fenugreek, fennel, curry leaves and other spices to bring a warm, full and rounded flavour, balanced by the nutty notes of sesame and coconut oil. Due perhaps to the French influence there are no chillies in Vadouvan, rather uniquely for an Indian spice blend, but fresh chillies would normally be added to your dish at some point.
Vadouvan can be used as a base for a curry, in which case it should be used together with a bit of curry powder (our Hot Madras or Mauritius Masala are both ideal). But it also works really well as a ‘tempering’ spice, added towards the end of cooking to bring balance and warmth. It is particularly good used in birianis and dahls. This unusual and delicious masala is one of our favourites at the moment, and really is a unique item of ammunition in your kitchen armoury!
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