Korarima, or Ethiopian Cardamom (Afromomum Corrorima) is a member of the ginger family, as are the more common green and black cardamoms. It is an essential ingredient in Ethiopian cooking as well as the kitchens of the immediate region.
Whenever an Ethiopian recipe calls for cardamom, it is korarima that the recipe is referring to, not cardamom, as many assume.
Korarima pods are much larger than green cardamom pods, and look a little like the Indian black cardamom. It is the seeds of the Ethiopian cardamom that are used, whether whole of ground to a powder.
In the image above, you see the korarima seeds in focus. I’ve placed some black peppercorns on the bottom left and some green cardamom seeds and pods on the right, to give you an idea of size. You can see that the Ethiopian cardamom seeds are a little more brown in colour and bigger than the green cardamom seeds.
What does korarima taste like?
It is not dissimilar to the green cardamom, hence the name “false cardamom”. To me, everything that the green cardamom is, the korarima is more so! It has a stronger and sharper floral aroma, with a strong camphor presence, with hints of cloves, pepper, nutmeg and even, to my nose, eucalyptus.
How is the Ethiopian cardamom used?
It is one of the most important spices in many, many recipes and is used in Ethiopian spice mixes like the famous berbere and is also used to flavour coffee, just like the regular green cardamom is used to flavour coffee in the Middle East, like the Arabic Qahwa.
Ethiopian Cardamom Substitute
Naturally, if you can’t get korarima, the common green cardamom will have to suffice. However, my suggestion would be to add a touch nutmeg, cloves and black pepper. But just a tiny, tiny touch, for the merest whisper of these spices. If the recipe already calls for them, then increase the amount use ever so slightly.
Where can I buy Ethiopian False Cardamom?
If you don’t happen to have an African shop nearby that stocks these, like me, try and see if you can get them online. Here in the UK, I get them from the good folks at Spice Mountain.co.uk.
In the US, if you don’t have an African shop nearby, do an online search, and I bet you will find a store or two that stocks them.
Korarima, the Ethiopian Cardamom
- Korarima seeds, amount as your recipe calls for
- Grind in a spice mill before using. Or pound using a pestle and mortar.