tsao-ko, elaichi, thảo quả
Black cardamom is the fragrant pods of one of two species of Amomum. The photo above shows the Chinese variety on the left and the Indian variety on the right. Both varieties of black cardamom have a strong smoky aroma owing to the way the pods are dried over fire. Because of this unique fragrance, they are almost always used in savoury dishes.
What's it taste like?
Black cardamom has a potent smoky meat-like flavour reminiscent of pimenton. The Indian variety in particular has an underlying camphor-like aroma.
Where do I get it?
Black cardamom can be found in the spice aisle of Indian, Chinese, and Vietnamese grocery stores, often coming in small clear plastic bags.
When is it best?
As with any spice, cardamom looses it's potency with time, so try to get it from a store with a fair amount of turnover. Most of these packages don't have expiration dates, so you'll just have to do your best at looking for telltale signs of age such as dusty and faded packaging.
How do I use it?
It's typically added whole into soups and stews, but could also ground into a powder and added to spice blends such as garam masala. Unlike green cardamom, black cardamom is rarely used in desserts.
While there are no documented nutritional benefits, black cardamom is prescribed in chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments.