Vadouvan is most easily described as the French equivalent of the British curry powder. The principle is the same as that of curry powder in that its purpose is to adapt Indian spices to suit European taste buds; however, vadouvan does it with the characteristic French panache and subtlety. This history of vadouvan lies in the French colonial possession known as Pondicherry. This settlement in southern India was controlled by France from the middle of the 17th century all the way up to the middle of the 20th century. French chefs in this settlement used a Tamil spice blend called vadagam as their primary influence for vadouvan. Vadagam was traditionally rolled into balls and sun-dried before being used to flavor dishes.
Despite being around for centuries, vadouvan was not widely known in the US until chef Ludo Lefebvre of the famed LA eatery Trois Mec placed it on the foodie radar in 2005. This began a trend that continues today with American and western European gastronomes rediscovering this spice blend.
Vadouvan flavor profile
Vadouvan is known for its subtlety, rather than for the intense notes found in Indian-influenced British cooking. The flavor of this spice blend is best described as being mellow and sweet with smoky notes. The strongest notes come from spices that we typically associate with curry powder such as fenugreek and cumin. Many blends include spices like cardamom and mustard seeds as well. You will often find the familiar flavors of onions and shallots in the background of the more assertive flavors.
Health benefits of vadouvan
The nutritional profile of vadouvan depends on which spices are included in the blend and those can vary. That said, most blends will contain the same ingredients that contain healthy compounds like the ones below.
- Vitamins: Vadouvan blends contain both vitamin A and vitamin C. Both vitamins are present in relatively small amounts. You will get less than 1 percent of your daily requirement of each from a 1-teaspoon serving. Even so, the amounts are still reasonable given the small serving size.
- Minerals: You will get a small amount of calcium and a slightly larger amount of iron in each teaspoon of vadouvan that you consume. Like the vitamins, you will get less than one percent of your daily recommended intake of these minerals from this spice blend; however, it is impressive for a small serving size.
- Fiber: Vadouvan provides a significant amount of fiber given the small serving size. You will get 0.1 g from each teaspoon.
The nutrients in vadouvan can be useful for treating and preventing a range of health conditions, including:
- Digestive issues: The fenugreek in most vadouvan blends is considered a digestive aid that can help to prevent bloating and nausea. Fenugreek (along with other vadouvan ingredients) provides fiber, which makes the blend beneficial for preventing constipation.
- Inflammation: Researchers have found anti-inflammatory compounds in several of the spices found in typical vadouvan blends. These spices include cardamom, turmeric, and fenugreek.
- Diabetes: Cumin is one of the spices commonly used in vadouvan and according to at least one study, it has the ability to reduce blood sugar levels in people suffering from diabetes. As a result, cumin can be an effective tool for managing the disease.
Common uses of vadouvan
The most traditional application for vadouvan is koazambu, which is a Tamil Nadu gravy served with rice. You can also use the blend in any dish that calls for curry powder and to flavor a variety of meats and savory vegetables.
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