Violet cardamom (alainchi)
Violet cardamom (alainchi)
This violet cardamom is a special black cardamom, originating from a plant that has been cultivated in Nepal since the nineteenth century. The fruit is harvested when it is fully ripe. By gently drying the fruits, they retain their beautiful color and rich flavor palette, hence 'violet'.
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Violet cardamom is a unique product, because most cardamoms of this kind - the large cardamom - are sold as 'black cardamom' and are usually dried over charcoal.
This large cardamom is a 'false cardamom'. True cardamom is the smaller green cardamom. The Amomum subulatum on which the alainchi grows belongs to the same ginger family as the plant genera Eletteria (true cardamom) and Aframomum (mbongo pepper, corn of paradise). They have in common that the flowers are on leafless stems that are formed from the base of the plant.
The cultivation of Amomum subulatum started in the nineteenth century after Nepalese workers brought the plant from Sikkim to Nepal. Only a hundred years later, in the fifties of the last century, commercial cultivation started.
We have given this special cardamom the Nepalese name Alainchi to distinguish it from the usual form in which this fruit is offered, namely as 'black cardamom'. That is the same fruit, but it is dried above a smoking area (bhatty), a technique that is also used in India, Bhutan and China in addition to Nepal. Black cardamom owes its deep brown color and smoky aroma to this method of drying.
The Nepalese cardamoms are harvested with the knife from August to November when they are fully ripe and have a beautiful violet colour. That color is preserved by drying the fruits out of the sun and not over fire. The advantage of this controlled method of drying is the controllability of the process. This is lacking when drying over fire, which can cause major differences in quality between different 'batches'.
If you want to get an idea of the cultivation of this wonderful spice in Nepal, take a look at this Youtube video, scroll to the second minute - made by the Nepali Times.
Odor and taste
Alainchi has a warm, spicy aroma of resin, pine, eucalyptus and citrus, with a slight sharpness. By using it in dishes, other spices would come into their own. Think of cinnamon or cassia, Szechuan pepper, star anise and galangal, (and) the spices with which black cardamom is combined. The main flavor component is 1,8-cineol (70% of the essential oil in violet cardamom):
- 1,8-cineole, eucalyptol, the refreshing taste of mint (and eucalyptus oil)
- β-myrcene, spicy aroma, with notes of fruits (mango, grape, peach) and mint,
- α- terpineol, woody pine, citrus and lily
- terpine-4-ol, sweet woody and peppery aroma, as in juniper, and
- t-caryophyllene, a taste between clove and turpentine
Alainchi is a spice with its own character, not to be used as a substitute for the cooler, green cardamom. Alainchi is used like black cardamom in various spice blends such as garam masala, tandoori spices, the Chinese 5-spice blend (instead of cloves), and 10-spice blends. In Szechuan, black cardamom (hēi dòukòu) is used in red-boiled dishes, stews, especially those with beef. In Nepal people not only cook with it, they also use the seeds as a mouth freshener after meals. A beautiful pot of cardamom on the table is a sign of hospitality.
Good applications are: with game and wild birds, in curries and in dishes with yoghurt and soups (such as pho), with fish, but not in sweet preparations.
Because the aromas are in the seeds, the seed pod is 'cracked' before use by pressing it firmly, for example with the handle of the chef's knife, but keeping the seed pod intact as a whole. The advantage of cracking over opening is that the seeds stay together and can be removed from the dish before serving. If you want to grind the seeds, yes of course open the seed box and do not use the shell. Always cook the cardamom with the dish to get the most out of it. Do not grind more than you think you will use in the short term, the aroma dissipates quite quickly.
- 100% dried fruits of the Amomum subulatum
- origin: Nepal
- available in glass and pouch (no test tubes)
- glass jar contains 45 grams
- standup pouches with a content of up to 30 to 1000 grams
- larger quantities on request
- the jar is available in a tasteful gift box, consisting of a cube box filled with black tissue paper
- for an overview of our gift packaging, please refer to the section gift packaging
- keep your kampot pepper in closed packaging
- preferably store in a dark, dry and cool place
- best before September 2025 (02/25)
- this best before date is an indication