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Spices for indian cooking!

Indian cooking is not about spices and curries! Indian cuisine is actually an assemble of many cuisines!

With so many people wanting to cook indian food at home , (but don’t know where to start) knowing ingredients should be the first step. When I try a new dish from other cuisines, I start with ingredients and then flavour and then technique! This is little help for those  who want to cook simple indian dishes. Any questions ,queries and suggestions will be appreciated and will try my best to solve your queries.

Here is the little information of spices required for various indian dishes!

  • Must-have spices for indian cooking- Spices play important part in my cooking! .(Every indian kitchen has small box which divided in different parts to store spices!)

Mustard seeds or popping seeds– Mustard seeds(Known as ‘raai’ in hindi) are widely in indian cooking. I use them almost daily! It is mostly put in hot oil and is allowed to splutter or crackle up. This way, it gives out most of the flavour. It is used in tempering, curries, daals or even in pickles!

Cumin seeds-(known as ‘jeera’ in hindi) I love cumin. They have amazing flavour. Most of the times, cumin is used along with mustard seeds in tempering.Cumin is also widely used in powder form. It is roasted and ground to powder and stored in air-tight container. Roasted cumin powder in used curries,salad, yogurt salad(raita). A slightly different form of cumin seeds known as ‘shah-jeera’ is used in pilaf(pulao) ,biryani or tandoori preparations! I can say that shah-jeera is exotic form of jeera(cumin).
Asafoetida– (Known as’hing’ in hindi) Asafoetida has very strong flavour. Considered very healhty and is quick cure for cold, indigestion and abdominal pain. It is used in powdered form. It  is put in hot oil to make most of it. It turns sticky at high temperatures. It is used little at a time because of this strong flavour. It is used in tempering , curries, rice dishes and in pickles!

Curry leaves– These leaves have amazing flavour but are little bitter in taste. They are used in samll amounts in tempering and curries. Most people have a small plant of curry leaves at home. It tastes best when fresh but is also available in dry powdered form.

Red chilly and powder – This is used in most of indian dishes. There are so many varieties of red chillies. It is used as whole or in powdered form in almost anything or everything. It gives spiceness to the food!

Corinader seeds and powder- (known as’dhaniya’ in hindi) Coriander powder is used in daily indian cooking. It is used in gravies of curries and garam masala. It is mostly not eaten in raw form like cumin powder. It has to be cooked and then eaten.

Turmeric powder-(known as ‘haldi’ in hindi) It holds special place in indian cooking for its colour, flavour and medicinal value. It is quick cure for cold and other bacterial infections. It is bitter in taste and so is used in small quantities. It is used in gravies, rice dishes or pickles and other savouries.

Garam masala– It is mix of several powdered spices and used extensively in curries,biryanis, tandoori preparations and many others. It has very strong hot flavour.

Ginger and garlic paste– Mostly used in gravies and savoury dishes.

Garlic is widely used in indian cooking as whole or in paste form. It is used in tempering, gravies , pickles ,daals(lentils).
Ginger has its own pungent flavour and very much in indian dishes mostly in paste form or dried powder form in gravies, tea ,rice or savoury dishes

Black peppercorns or pepper– It is mostly used in south-indian cooking. Both whole peppercorns and powdered form are used. Used in rasam(hot tempered and spiced tomato soup) or sambar(Lentils and vegetables soup or broth ) or rice dishes. It is also used on special occasions in food to offer good(Nivedhya or prasad).

Cardamom– (Known as ‘elaichi’ in hindi) Widely used in indian desserts, pilafs, biryanis or enen in tea!It is used either whole or in powdered form.

Lesser used spices
Fennel seeds– (known as ‘saunf’ in hindi)- I ‘m in love with fennel seeds. It gives mild sweet flavour and gives cooling effect to the body! Used mostly in rajasthani food but I use it in my kitchen often in daals(lentils) and some curries.

Cinnamon, cloves and star anise– These are used as whole in many indian dishes. But mostly in rice dishes!

Fenugreek– (Known as ‘methi’ in hindi) Both seeds and leaves of fenugreek is used for medicinal value.It is cure for constipation and stomach upset. It tastes bitter but used very much in curries, daals or rices dishes, pickles or chaats!

Dry mango powder-(known as ‘aamchur’ in hindi) I use it lot more than others in salads and savoury dishes. It gives tangy flavour to salads.

Chaat masala– It is mix of spices which gives tangy flavour along with little salty taste. I use it on my salads, chaats(savoury dishes)

Bay leaf– It is a spice which is actually never eaten . It is put at the start of cooking and removed at the end. Yes, it has amazing strong flavour. Usually one or two bay leaf is enough for a dish. I use them in soups, pilafs or rich gravies!

Tamarind– (Known as ‘imli’ in hindi) Tamarind pulp is used in savouries, chaats, chutney, pickles and gravies. It has  strong tangy flavour . It is used more in south-indian cooking!

Do remind me, if I have missed any! Hope you guys find it helpful!

I will be posting about lentils and oils used for indian cooking in part-2!

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