This is the basic method for transferring the flavor from spices to food and you'll use it over and over again. First the spices are added to very hot oil The sizzling infusion or tadka is then used to flavor a dish. Here's how it works:
1. Heat the oil in a pan. Keep a spatter screen or lid handy - cumin and mustard seeds will sputter and pop wildly.
2. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the spice(s). Cover and allow the spice(s) to cook - this literally takes seconds. As soon as the sputting stops, the tadka is ready.
3. Immediately add the larger ingredients to the pan - this cools the oil and prevents
the spices from burning.
Since the oil has to be very hot, making a tadka takes a tiny bit of skill and speed. If you do burn the spices, don't panic. Discard them, rinse the skillet and start over. Once you've done it a couple of times, you'll be an expert.
Tip #1: Don't prepare a tadka in advance. Make it only when you're absolutely ready to use it, because it's most potent at the point when the spices are sizzling.
Tip #2: Since the tadka is ready in seconds, you won't have time to refer back to your recipe. So keep the intredients for the next step on hand, ready to add to the pan.
Tip #3: A tadka may also be used to finish off a dish, by pouring it over a prepared raita or dal to impart a delicious smoky flavor. In this case, take it off the heat as soon as the spices stop sputtering and add it immediately to your dish.