Turmeric: Remedial Spice and Natural Colorant

Turmeric root and spice. Photo credit: gluten free gigi.

At my Phang Nga Bay eco lodge, dinner for me on this breezy evening included turmeric (curry) and coconut flavor based meal. Growing up in Thailand, I had become accustomed to the scents of both these celebrated Asian aromatic ingredients and could identify each item blindfolded. As I shift excitedly in my chair like a seven-year-old, our chef emerged from around the corner carrying our meals.

I was back home in Thailand! My elation must have been palpable because as I enthusiastically reached for my plate before our server even had a chance to place it on the table in front of me, he and I simultaneously giggled. I could hardly contain myself. Blue crab with turmeric, coconut milk, young ginger, green peppercorns, and white rice was my choice and I was thrilled.

Turmeric has a long history of been used as food, medicine, and dye, dating back to 4,000 years. This spice is widely used in Southeast Asian cuisine.

Turmeric is highly respected in the region. It is not only the main ingredient in many of the local dishes but it is also used in religious ceremonies. The spice is believed to signify life, purity, and prosperity. And was a popular cloth and skin dye.

The spice is often referred to as the ‘Indian saffron‘ due to its bright color and health benefits. It is much loved by the people in the region. In some other parts of the world such as the Caribbean, turmeric is known as curry. This is a powder made from the root. To make curry, turmeric root is boiled (or steamed), then dried, and finally ground into a yellow powder.

I recommend using pure grounded turmeric (or curry powder). The spice is often used with protein, vegetables and rice dishes. Turmeric has very strong staining effect so you may want to use glove when cooking with this ingredient.

turmeric plant
Turmeric plant (curcuma longa). Drawing credit: imp soup.


History writings show that the herb has been used in many ways to prevent and treat minor infections and other ailments, including open wounds, sinus, ear irritation, and upset stomach.

Turmeric is from the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. Within the Asian culture, this root is eaten both raw and cooked.

In the year 1280, Marco Polo refers to turmeric in his writings while traveling in China. He said ‘there is also a vegetable that has all the properties of true saffron, as well as the smell and the color, and yet it is not really saffron.’

This spice never became popular in the western world. Today, however, many studies are being done on turmeric for testing its medicinal properties.





Article by: Jasmine Uy 

| December 23, 2015