Red Cardamom (Cao Guo)
Red Cardamom are the ripe, whole fruits of an herb related to ginger. Red Cardamom is frequently used in Chinese and other Asian cuisines.
Remove seeds from pods and grind before adding to recipes. Or, place crushed pods and seeds in cheesecloth bag and soak to infuse flavor.
Storage & handling
Store in a dry, cool place.
Red Cardamom (or "Cao Guo" in Chinese) is the dried ripe fruit of the Amomum tsao-Ko plant. The plants typically grow up to 3 meters tall in rain forests and other densely vegetated tropical regions.
In China, where it is used both as a natural medicine and a seasoning for food, it is widely cultivated in Yunnan, Guangxi and Huizhou provinces. The fruit is harvested in the fall when ripe, cleaned and dried over open flames which contribute a smoky tone to the spice. Red Cardamom is related to, but highly distinctive from, green cardamom and Indian black cardamom-it should not be used as a substitute for either of these spices.
It is widely used in many Asian cuisines, so as a result it has many common alternate names including Cao Guo, Thao Qua, Nepal cardamom, Java cardamom, brown cardamom, Bengal cardamom, Siamese cardamom and many others.
Typical culinary uses of Red Cardamom include braising meat (such as the Chinese Jin Jin style of braising) and flavoring soups and stews-it's sometimes used flavor pho in Vietnam. Red Cardamom's strong smell and subtle flavor is sometimes used to cover pronounced seafood aromas. Red Cardamom can be added to a recipe whole (although then it is typically removed before serving) or the seeds may be ground into a powder first.
Medicinal uses (in Chinese traditional medicine) including treatment of digestive disorders such as indigestion, nausea, excessive, flatulence, belching and stomach pains. Laboratory analyses of the essential oil distilled from fresh Red Cardamom fruits have identified compounds including cineole (a highly aromatic organic compound with anti-inflammatory and possible antibacterial properties present in cinnamon, cloves, ginger and eucalyptus), geraniol (a primary component of rose oil, palmarosa oil and citronella oils that is used in perfumes and is present in other natural fruit flavors such as peach, raspberry, grapefruit, and others) and camphor. These and other compounds are the most likely sources of the antibacterial and antifungal properties of the essential oil as demonstrated in laboratory testing.
Red Cardamom poached pears are an elegant dessert and surprisingly easy to make. Red Cardamom heightens the flavors and brings out the essence of orange and cinnamon. Serve with ice cream or alone with the decadent Red Cardamom spiked syrup.