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Get to know: Turmeric

Mae Jum Turmeric in Thai cuisine

What is Turmeric? 

Turmeric is a yellow coloured root that closely resembles the appearance of ginger and galangal root. Both ginger and turmeric are from the Zingiberaceae family and are rhizomes. Turmeric is a spice native to Southeast Asia and Indian subcontinents, it has been widely used in Asia for thousands of years and it is commonly used as a curry powder or even for a natural dye. 

Cooking with Turmeric 

Turmeric is commonly used in curry powders, and often used in signature Thai dishes such as the Thai Yellow curry. This spice can be used fresh, dried and grounded. 

Fresh turmeric root 

The skin of fresh turmeric is usually too tough to eat, so be sure to peel the root when cooking with this ingredient. This can easily be done with a vegetable peeler or a knife, or a spoon will do too, surprisingly!  You can prepare it in many ways, totally up to personal preference and to what dish you are wanting to cook. Slice it, grate it, dice it or juice it! It can be a little harder to find but worth the hunt.

Turmeric powder

Turmeric powder is the most familiar form of turmeric, this is commonly used in curry powder with a mix of other dried spice. It is a vital ingredient in Thai yellow curry too which brings a warm and vibrant colour, as well as an aromatic tone to a dish. 

In our Mae Jum Yellow Thai curry paste, we use fresh whole turmeric root. This paste is very versatile and can be used in recipes for meat, vegetables, noodles, seafood, and soups. Here are a few of the recipes we used with the paste…

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce and Nam Ajad

Chicken Thai Yellow Curry and Bamboo Shoots

Chicken and Potato Thai Yellow Curry

chicken satay with peanut sauce and nam ajad

Appearance and Taste

The appearance of turmeric is bright yellow, which is not only vibrant but is prone to staining. This powerful dye will leave stains on your fingers and clothing so be sure to wear gloves, an apron and cover surfaces to avoid transfer (this has happened to me many times, you would have thought I’d learn by now!). 

The taste is quite earthly, woody and slightly bitter. Some say it has a slight peppery taste, similar to mustard or horseradish but not as strong. The bitterness of turmeric is great to add dimension to a dish, but if you left it out of a recipe, there wouldn’t be much difference in taste. I say it’s mostly used for colour purposes.

Samunprai

Turmeric is a spice that contributes to Samunprai treatment, along with other herbs and spices such as lemongrass, tamarind, kaffir lime, and black pepperThe word samunprai has no direct equivalent in the English language, which is because the experience is wholly unique.  

To this day, many people seek out herbal poultice massages to ease their own tensions, with the deep heat and tissue massage easing all worldly worries. You can learn more about Samunprai and its history here

In Thai spa treatments, turmeric and other herbs and spices are often diffused in “tea”. This “tea” is then used in steamed baths and is said to be an effective treatment for skin rashes, inflammation and sore muscles. 

Mae Jum Samunprai turmeric

Turmeric Benefits

The properties that makeup turmeric can offer some benefit. Colourful plant foods are good for our health because of their pigment. Turmeric and other colourful plants have a higher quantity of the main active component curcumin, which provides a protective compound that helps us fight against the damaging effect of oxidation. 

Over time, oxidation may lead to chronic inflammation and, as a result, lead to age-related conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Consuming turmeric as well as other colourful plant foods could help towards this.

Other turmeric benefits are that it may help ease arthritis, May support cognitive function, May lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and May support the immune system.


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