TECHNIQUE:

TEMPER

Tempering spices involves heating them in fat, and then adding them to a cooked dish right before serving. Similar to Blooming  but done at the end of the cooking process instead of the beginning, tempering brings a fresh burst of flavor and aroma to a finished dish.

While most of the other spice techniques appear across many cuisines, tempering is integral to some yet virtually unknown in others. It's a classic technique in South and East Asian cuisines: In India, it may be called tadka, chhonk, or many other terms, and is often used to add extra flavor to lentil and vegetable dishes. In Chinese and Chinese diaspora cuisines, aromatics and spices are often heated in oil to make a sauce poured over mild-flavored main ingredients like steamed fish or tofu, or hot oil may be poured over spices and aromatics to make a sauce. In European cuisines, the closest equivalent might be basting meat with butter and aromatics before serving.

To temper your spices, heat a generous quantity of ghee, peanut oil, or another flavorful fat in a small pot. Add the spices of your choice and simmer over low heat until the fat is fragrant with the aroma of the spices, removing from heat just as their color begins to darken. Pour carefully over the main dish (usually while still in the cooking pot) and serve.

TRY IT OUT

BASIC

For an extra pop of spicy, savory flavor, heat about 1⁄3 cup of olive oil with 1 teaspoon each of black Urfa chili and wild mountain cumin. Drizzle over roasted vegetables before serving.

ADVANCED

Steam or roast a whole fish with minimal seasoning. When the fish is fully cooked, plate it on a deep platter. Using peanut or sesame oil (or a mixture of the two), temper star anise, black peppercorns, fermented white peppercorns, and a little Cobanero chili along with minced fresh ginger, garlic, and the white stalks of scallions. Pour the spiced oil over the fish before serving.