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Because of ancient trade, the origin of turmeric cannot accurately be reconstructed; probably South East Asia or South Asia. A related species, C. xanthorrhiza, grows on Jawa, where it is called temu lawak; in taste, it is equivalent to C. longa. Turmeric usage dates back nearly 4000 years, to the Vedic culture in India, when turmeric was the principal spice and also of religious significance. It is employed in some Hindu rituals, where the yellow colour symbolizes the sun. With its rich curcumin content, which imparts the distinctive yellow color, and other inherent qualities, Indian turmeric is considered the best in the world. India is today the largest exporter of turmeric to discerning countries like the Middle East, the UK, USA and Japan.
Uses: It is added to nearly every dish, be it meat or vegetables. It is part of all curry powders. Due to Indian influence, turmeric has also made its way to the cuisine of Ethiopia. In South East Asia, the fresh spice is much preferred to the dried. In Thailand, the fresh rhizome is grated and added to curry dishes; it is also part of the yellow curry paste. Yellow rice (nasi kuning) is popular on the Eastern islands of Indonesia; it derives its colour from fresh or dried turmeric. In Bali, where alone in Indonesia Hinduism has survived, a tasty nasi kuning is prepared from rice, turmeric, coconut milk and aromatic leaves (Indonesian bay-leaf, lemon grass and pandanus leaves). It is considered a “cultic dish” and sacrificed to the Gods. Western cuisine does not use turmeric directly, but it forms part of several spice mixtures and sauces; it is also used to impart a bright yellow colour to mustard paste. Indian turmeric has been known to the world since ancient times. Several unique properties of Indian turmeric make it the ideal choice as a food flavor, an effective ingredient in medicines and cosmetics, and as a natural colorant.
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