Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Kitchen Smells: Cardamom

Welcome to the Kitchen Smells series! 'Kitchen Smells' is a series of posts in which I share what I'm cooking in my kitchen (mostly South Indian food) while focusing on an ingredient and on the perfumes that feature that ingredient.

Today's feature is Cardamom.
Green Cardamom pods with seeds inside
The Flavour of Cardamom
Cardamom is a beautiful spice with a remarkable flavour and even more remarkable smell. It is not a "hot" spice but a "cool" one. Cardamom is used in food (especially Indian) as a flavour for both sweet and savoury dishes, even to flavour drinks (like masala chai) and mouth fresheners. Flavour of cardamom is quite delicate but can't be missed due to its characteristic aroma. If there is one thing that flavours Indian food in the most versatile way, it is cardamom. I think Cardamom is to Indian desserts as Vanilla is to Western deserts. But the flavour is drastically different from vanilla. Cardamom has a cool flavour. It compliments the sweetness in desserts but in a way that invigorates the sweet rather than add more sweetness. It uplifts the sweet dish, which is why it is a winner for me. I am not much of a sweet tooth and cardamom actually increases the flavour and tones down the sharp sweetness.
Instant Payasam Mix
Brand: MTR
Can be bought from Indian grocers
Payasam being cooked
One example of a dessert that is flavoured with cardamom is Payasam which is a milk based dessert made with whole wheat/semolina vermicelli. It tastes absolutely delicious. Back at home, vermicelli is home made by hand conforming to a standard shape, length and thickness. Being as terribly lazy and unmotivated cook that I am, I stick to the instant mix. The mix has vermicelli, sugar, raisins, cashews and flavoring of cardamom and saffron. Boil milk, add the mix, heat till vermicelli cooks and you have creamy wonderful payasam ready! The whole kitchen smells of caramelised milk and cardamom. Heaven!

The Fragrance of Cardamom
The smell of cardamom in perfumes makes me smile. Unlike any other spice, cardamom is not spicy or pungent. The smell of cardamom is delicate, green and aromatic. It adds a fresh, energetic and very dynamic vibe to perfumes. Due to the fact that it is fresh, it is often used in masculine fragrances. It is used in different combinations, all to produce unique 'opulent but refreshing' effect. Cardamom and ginger is just so vivacious and exciting. Cardamom also compliments the coldness of incense, making the incense come alive. 

To appreciate and familiarise with cardamom as a note, I think it is best to get a few pods and smell it. The pods have an outer (can I call it shell?) green/black covering has a fresher smell. The seeds are black which are responsible for most of the flavour and fragrance. The seeds are intensely aromatic when crushed. That is the real smell of cardamom. Cardamom essential oil and carbon dioxide extraction is a good way to smell and get used to how it would smell in fragrances. I have come across many fragrances with strong and appreciable cardamon note. Here are a few.

Amouage The Library Collection: Opus II
Amouage make great perfumes reflecting middle Eastern sophistication. While browsing through the Amouage section at David Jones, I smelt all 5 from The Library Collection and Opus II stood out to me and I loved it. As soon as I sniffed I knew there was something about it that I liked instantly. It was the cardamom note. Cardamom is showcased along with incense making the perfume cool fresh yet rich. If I could, I would get a bottle. It is also currently on sale for half price ($213) at David Jones.

Comme des Gracons: White 
This is a medley of beautiful spices, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. I also think cardamom adds a cool vibe to the rich spices. I don't know why, my skin amps the cardamom in it like crazy! Beautiful 'feminine' cardamom.

Cardamom, ginger and melon combined to personify the abstractness of Monsoon. Very cool, almost watery and fresh. Reviewed in detail here.

BPAL The Moths: Gypsy
LE (Metamorphosis: The Moths) It is an average perfume for BPAL, nothing spectacular but cardamom is nicely combined with tonka bean. It is sweet, aromatic, soft but short lived. Nice sweet and spicy perfume.

It has some beautiful things like pine needle, pepper, coriander but I can sense cardamom. My nose must be cheating me but it the perfume gives the same feeling as cardamom would. Maybe it is the pine needle, pepper combo. A man could pull this off in a very sexy way.

Cartier Declaration
Cardamom with added apices on a soft woody base (supposedly Iso E super added generously). It has a 'mustiness'  to it on my skin, which is exactly how cumin behaves on my skin. A nice masculine fresh smell that is cool and fresh. 

Others worth a mention are YSL La Nuit de l'Homme (Caron's lavender vanilla with more freshness), Aesop Marrakech (review coming very soon).

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed. Can't wait to write the next Kitchen Smells post!


  1. I know I've had cardamom before on countless occasions - and baked with it! - but now I can't imagine the smell. I don't drink chai because it's too sweet, so I don't think I've had a cardamom-enhanced food item in a long time!

  2. Larie, how exciting that you bake with it! I recently had cardamom macarons! It was just so beyond delicious :) If you have a simple macaron recipe (for dummies :D) do share :)

  3. What a great idea for a series! I don't know if I've consciously experienced a lot of cardamom, I do recall its taste in Gulab Jamun though. I am very fond of ginger and clove as well, hint, hint.

  4. That dessert sounds amaaazing, it has made me so hungry. The Hermes fragrance sounds amazing, and the Commes de Garcon also

    Loving this post idea, best of many worlds!

  5. Liber Vix, they flavour the syrup of Gulab Jamun with cardamom :) I love ginger and clove too. Great suggestions :)

    Emma, do try those and I'm sure you'll like :) Food and fragrance is such a nice combo, both indulgent :)

  6. What a wonderful idea for a new series! :) I had never heard of these before, but it sounds yummy! I do like some Indian food, but I really haven't tried much.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this post can't wait for the next in the series. I am familiar with Cardamom in Indian food which as you know is readily available in UK although I am sure home made is more authentic. I don't recall having it in a dessert. That pudding looks lovely.

  8. I love your new series! I'm a foodie so I'm a sucker for food related posts. My favorite fume with cardamom note is L'Aromatica Kulfi. Kulfi is my favorite Indian desert loaded with cardamom and saffron! So Decadent!

  9. Love this new series. What a beautiful description of cardamom!The only South Indian food I'm familiar with, is dosa, with a kind of green coconut chutney.Super yummy.
    Comme des Gracons White sounds so good. The only perfume I have tried with a strong cardamom note is, Victoria's secret heavenly. Looking forward to this series. Great post.

  10. I am a big cardamom fan the flavor! And now I need to try this MTR payasam :)

  11. Vintage Makeup, South Indian food is quite different from the normal perception of Indian food. Probably that's why you haven't heard of it :)

    Sugarpuffish, cardamom is so flavourful and I miss how Indian food is available everywhere in UK

    Olfactoryobsessed, OMG, I love Kulfi too! I remember eading your review about L'Aromatica's kulfi. I just googled and the store is closed for now. I'm busting to try that perfume out :)

    Pandora, I love dosa too! I have not tried anything VS. I hope I do one day, have heard great things about the brand.

    Harshleen, try the payasam, you'll love :)

  12. Such an interesting post, have never heard of cardamom before. Looking forward to the next kitchen smells post. x

  13. I love Comme des Garcons White, it turns out so sweet on my skin though and can give me a headache so I prefer it on my boyfriend!

    Have you tried Kenzo's Jungle series? L'Elephant has a amazing cardamom note, along with some other dirtied up spices. It's a bit too strong for summer but firmly in my rotation once the seasons change.

    The Hermes UJALM you mentioned did nothing for me, but I get a nice amount from Voyage d'Hermes.

    Ohohoh, and Tokyo Milk's Ex Libris 16 is a figgy cardamom with a base that reminds me of rice pudding.

    Ok I'll stop now, getting carried away!

  14. Oh Michaela! You have made me want to smell them all! Kenzo Elephant smells very spicy on me (like Bvlgari Omnia), I get a lot of other spices not so much of cardamom. I need hunt down the Tokyo Milk one, sounds really gorgeous!

  15. How did I miss this post? What a fantastic series! I love the smell of cardamom too, particularly in payasam. And I'm going to go smell the Hermes perfume the next time I am in Sephora! :)

    Btw, where do you get your payasam mix? Is it easier than making it from scratch? I don't make the vermicelli one, but the rice one isn't too tough - I make that at home!

  16. Ki,try the Hermes. It is nice:)

    I get the mix from Indian grocery store. It is extremely easy. Just add to boiling milk and cook. Rice one sounds easy but I have tried making rice payasam just once, was a total fail!

  17. Mmm makes me want to buy some cardamom for cooking, I don't think I've tried it before :)

    1. You should :) It goes very well with anything sweet and baked! I get mine from Coles :)

  18. SMELLS great!
    I want the payasam, I want the cardamom, I want those perfumes listed!!! i should have guessed what came first in kitchen smells! :D
    imo, if one has to smell sensual/mysterious and every part the desirable one, apart frm Jasmine, Cardamom is a goddess!
    Su - are all those listed in the perfume section in the range of 100s and 200s or even more? :( anything at all in the easy-to-grab range? ;)
    Oh, the RL Notorious I felt had a bit of cardamom too and loved it but stayed terrible for the amt of money i paid! (though i'd need you to tell if what i smelt was right)

    1. Cardamom is such a nice ingredient, both for cooking and smell wise!

      Well, not all of them are expensive really. Amouage one is quite shocking. Comme De Garcons is about $150? Hermes one is $69 on StrawberryNet. BPAL Gypsy is $20 (if you find it, that is! It is an LE) Sweet Anthem have samples for under $10. Cartier is around $60, I think.
      I think you'll love They have decants of authentic perfumes for quite an affordable price. You can try all perfumes under the sun (well, almost) If you want to try 5 mls of a $200 perfume, it would cost very less and you are not stuck with the bottle if you don't like it!

  19. Hi Su,

    I hope you see this comment. (I just now realized olfactoryobsessed had mentioned my Kulfi perfume.) My old Etsy store is closed but I have a new store:

    And I'm still making Kulfi perfume by the boatloads :)
    I would really love to send you some samples. Please contact me via the etsy store above.

    Thanks so much,
    P.S. Cardamom is an obsession of mine too :)

    1. Thank you Loreto! I'll surely check that out and I do really need to get the Kulfi one. I'm sure it is heavenly!!