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Tempering - What Exactly Does It Mean?


DonRocks
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I've been seeing this word forever - often in Indian restaurants - and have never known quite what it means. It's often used in the form "tempered with <something>," so I'm not sure if tempering requires another agent, or if it's simply a process during which you can add something else.

I'm not oblivious to "temper" being the prefix in "temperature," but to "temper" something might also mean "to calm it down."

Anyway ... help!

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It's getting fat-containing foods melted/heated at the right temperature so they don't seize or curdle.  It has to do with fat separating but I'm not educated enough to explain it.  Usually the term is used with chocolate or eggs.  Chocolate that has liquid introduced at the wrong point will seize.  A sauce with eggs not tempered will curdle.  Often it means taking a small amount of a sauce and putting it into a bowl of beaten egg and then stirring that mixture back into the mother mixture over low heat.

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I've been seeing this word forever - often in Indian restaurants - and have never known quite what it means. It's often used in the form "tempered with <something>," so I'm not sure if tempering requires another agent, or if it's simply a process during which you can add something else.

I'm not oblivious to "temper" being the prefix in "temperature," but to "temper" something might also mean "to calm it down."

Anyway ... help!

Tempering in Indian cooking refers to blooming of whole spices and/or aromatics in hot oil. It is done either at the beginning or the end of the cooking process -- depending on the dish. The idea is to extract all the flavor from the spices.  In the case of dals, the tempering (in Hindi called 'tadka') is done at the end, just before serving to preserve the full flavor of the seasonings and add a good bit taste oooph to the otherwise bland lentils.

Hope this helps.

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