Smoked Cao Guo (Tsao Ko, Chinese Black Cardamom)
Cao guo, or tsao ko, has gone by various names in English. A member of the ginger family, it has long been called Chinese black cardamom because it is similar to Indian black cardamom in looks and taste. But it seems to have been recently reclassified from the Amomum genus of cardamom to the Asian classification of Lanxangia tsao-ko. To make matters more confusing, it is also sometimes called grass fruit in English.
Whatever you call it, cao guo is delicious! The big round pods are smoked during the drying process and have an incredible smoky layer on top of the camphor-ish flavor of the inner seeds. We throw a pod or two of cao guo into almost every long-cooked braise or stew.
Use the whole pod, slightly crushed to release the inner flavor. (Some Sichuan chefs use only the empty shell pod.) Or crack open the pods with a cleaver or other heavy implement, extract the seeds from the sticky interior and grind them for use in spice mixes.
This cao guo is grown in Yunnan Province and is one of the most-used spices in Yunnan food. It is also an important component of Sichuan soups and meat braises, and hot pot and dry pot spice mixes.
Source: Grown in Yunnan Province
Size: 3 ounces (85 grams)