Monday, May 28, 2012

Secret Recipe Club: Pyaaz Ka Masala aka sauted onion paste

This month's post for the Secret Recipe Club comes from Ruchi's Simply Food. I found her recipe for Pyaaz Ka Masala, an Indian onion paste and a "mother sauce" for many Indian curries.

The final product only bears a small resemblance to its original components. (Jeff Quackenbush photo)
Onions are my nemesis. They make me cry easier than a hammer to the toe or a stake through the heart.

Donning onion goggles, I began peeling. My eyes started to water, revealing a crack in my defenses. However, I persevered and began grating the onions one by one. Half-way through the first one, I realized that the red onions were gaining the upper hand. I was tearing and sniffling like a heart-broken girl.

There's a scientific explanation for the onion-eye assault, but that knowledge was little comfort. With an onion in one hand and grater in the other, I wept my way through the remaining three onions until they were a pulpy puddle in the bottom of my bowl.

Next, I trimmed and mashed 10 garlic cloves and added about 11/2 tablespoons of pureed ginger to the onion pulp. With a stick blender, I marrying the ingredients in a slurry. That went into a preheated cast-iron skillet.

The start of the journey, 4 pureed onions, 10 cloves of garlic and 1 1/2 tablespoon ginger. There's a lot of moisture in there we have to send away. (Tammy Quackenbush)
It took about 15 minutes for the slurry to expel enough moisture to become a paste. It darkened from a creamy very pale lilac to a deep greyish lilac.

The process starts as a rolling boil, forcing the water to flee from the pan under extreme duress. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)
It wasn't until about the 20 minute mark that hints of carmelization began. Even then, it took 40 minutes for the finished product to emerge.

Once the water has completely evaporated, this is when the fun begins and a careful eye will make the difference between a flavorful paste and a burnt lump. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)

The final product created about 1-2 cups of onion paste.  It's a potent paste. I can see this onion paste playing well in Korean meat dishes such as tteokgalbi which already uses a generous amount of onion, garlic and ginger. Just replace the ginger and garlic with a tablespoon of this paste into the hamburger mix and follow the rest of the steps accordingly.

Pyaaz ka masala

Recipe from Ruchi's Simply Food


2 pounds (1 kilogram) red onions (about 4 large onions)
10 large cloves of fresh garlic
11/2 tablespoons pureed ginger


  1. Peel the onions.
  2. Grate the onions and add the ginger puree ginger and garlic cloves mixture to the bowl and pulverize them with a stick blender until they form a paste.
  3. Heat a cast-iron skillet or other heavy-bottom pan on low temperature.
  4. Pour the paste into the skillet. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and let it cook on low heat.
  5. Initially, the paste will turn a lilac color. After about 20 minutes, the sugars in the onion will caramelize, and the paste will turn brown. Browning adds flavor and color to the curry.
  6. Once the paste starts to turn brown, continue cooking for another 10 minutes or so. Be careful not to allow it to burn.
  7. The paste should keep in the fridge for a week or two in an airtight container. The finished paste will have a strong smell.

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