You’re probably familiar with turmeric from the time you tried making curry at home and ended up with yellow stains all over your kitchen and a soupy mess that wasn’t close to the real thing. It’s traditionally—and by “traditionally” we mean, like, for more than 4,500 years—been used as a spice in Asian, Indian, and African dishes. But lately it’s migrated from curries and stews to yuppie snacks like grain bowls and cold-pressed juices. Yes, like bone broth and ancient grains before it, turmeric has graduated from Stone Age staple to superfood du jour for people who can afford an Equinox membership.
“Turmeric has an extensive list of health benefits, and as most ‘superfoods’ have their moment in the sunshine, turmeric may be exploding in popularity now simply due to its anti-inflammatory properties,” says New York registered dietitian Tanya Freirich. “Also, to our generation of very social-media-savvy participants, it’s got that amazing, vibrant yellow hue that lends itself very well to Instagram shots.”
About those anti-inflammatory properties: Freirich says turmeric can help with everything from joint pain to osteoarthritis and Crohn’s Disease. It also helps reduce cancer risk(seriously, though: What nutritional fad doesn’t reduce cancer risk?). It contains small amounts of iron, protein, and fiber. But most importantly, it’s going to help you with digestion. Whether it’s in a tea or a juice, turmeric—especially if you add a little ginger—is like an oil change for your stomach.
You can get turmeric as a packaged ground spice or buy the fresh root. The nutritional differences are negligible. The powdered variety, which is an excellent pantry staple, is going to lose its flavor over time (be sure to keep it out of the sunlight to preserve the spice as long as possible). But the potent root, which you can peel and grate like ginger, packs more flavor—and, okay, looks better in your overhead food shots.
Read above about our Turmeric recipe:
Rasam, a thin, lemony soup made with toor dal, a type of split pea, is served as a starter in South Indian households. Purchase toor dal in Indian grocery stores and online, or look for gold lentils in natural food stores. Curry leaves are worth seeking out for the remarkable flavor they add.
- ¼ tsp. ground turmeric
- ⅔ cup dry toor dal (split pigeon peas)
- 1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger (from 1-inch piece)
- 2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
- 1 14.5-oz. can plum tomatoes, drained and diced
- ¾ tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. ghee
- 1 tsp. brown mustard seeds
- ½ tsp. asafetida powder
- 1 red Kashmiri chile (dried red Indian chile), or any hot dried red chile, halved
- 10 curry leaves, optional
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- Chopped cilantro, for garnish
- Combine toor dal with 4 cups water and turmeric in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer 45 minutes, or until toor dal is soft. Transfer to blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Measure, and return to saucepan. Add enough water to make 5 cups.
- Stir in ginger, serrano chiles, tomatoes, and salt, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 5 minutes to marry flavors, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, heat ghee in skillet over medium heat. Add mustard seeds; asafetida powder; red chile; curry leaves, if using; cumin; and pepper. Cover and heat 1 to 2 minutes, or until mustard seeds begin to pop. Pour into soup. Remove soup from heat, and stir in lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro.