Spice Rack

Picture courtesy-World Wide Web

Welcome back, dear friends..Today I am going the spicy way..

Why this sudden 360 degree change in the pattern, you ask....well you see, I was posting way too many sugar treats recently, that one of my dear american friend asked me If I ever cook anything else or my family survives on the jams and cakes I bake...Am saying American because , she then asked me
 about the basic spices needed to cook an authentic Indian meal...I always thought that cooking Indian was the easiest way f cooking, maybe I was ignorant to the fact that being an Indian and that I was growing up in a very close knit family where everyone was  a chef, as they always moved for work or travel, they had to don the chef hat sooner than later maybe so for survival reasons alone...but then they were cooking great meals..

Then another friend said that Indian cooking scares her, she gave me a reasoning that going thorough the list of things needed for the curries; kind of tires her..she better have her indian food cravings satisfied at an indian food joint rather than slogging over the list and then collecting the spices needed... both instances happened in less than 2 days, that I felt like maybe they were hinting for a new post about some basics of Indian cooking and spices...

The home cooked Indian food is not the things one will usually find on the Menu in any Indian restaurant, Those are special meals prepared when one has company for lunch/dinner..after all, you will not find any american cooking Thanksgiving Dinner in June, July or any other occasion except Thanksgiving.. use the same logic...besides if we eat those tandoori dishes, heavy cream based curries day in and day out, you can imagine the state of our health and kind of diseases associated with them...Traditional Indian cooking is very easy, simple and very very healthy, using less oil, even lesser spices...

We do use few spices more than others like, Mustard seeds, Turmeric, Red Chili Powder or fresh Green Chili, cumin and coriander, hing and ginger and Cardamom on a daily basis...I will list some prominently used spices and their uses. At this point, I would like to let you all know that I am no expert and this list is compiled by yours truly  and her best friend Google( she was a lot of help). Without any further ranting,

Curry leaves --Kari patta,

They are used as a seasoning in Indian Cooking. The Curry leaves lose their delicate fragrance when dried, you should try to obtain them fresh, don't waste your time with the dried stuff!

Mustard- Rai

Mustard is known to be very helpful for digestion, and can help to speed up your metabolism. Mustard produces such a tiny seed yet it yields many health benefits. Mustard is one of the most popular spices in the entire world and is used in every country as a favorite spice. Part of the cabbage family, mustard can be used in its whole seed form, as a ground powder or combined with wine, vinegar or some other liquid to create a loose paste. There are three varieties of mustard: black, brown and white. The mustard plant grows to be quite tall and has a bright yellow flower.

Red Chilly-- Powder/fresh/dried : Cayenne Pepper-- Lal Mirch,

Now a basic Indian spice, used mainly for its pungent and fiery taste, one may use fresh green or red chilies instead.

Green Chilly-- Hari Mirch

Now a basic Indian spice, used mainly for its pungent and fiery taste, one may use fresh green or red chilies instead.

Cardamom Pods-- Eliachi

Used to flavor curries, masala chai and certain vegetables and Indian desserts and is one of the spices in Garam masala. Used for its strong but very pleasing flavor.

** Notes from
cardamom pods can be classified in 2 types: green or black. Green are mild and can be used to flavor curries, rice as well as sweets. Black used to flavor spices, curries and rice : has mostly savory application as it has a strong flavor.

Cinnamon --Dalchini,

Used for its sweet and pleasing flavor. It is the bark of the cinnamon tree and one of the spices in Garam masala. It is normally used to flavor curries, masala chai and certain vegetables and Indian desserts.

Clove -- Laung, Lavang, Lavanga

Used for its pleasing flavor. and is one of the spices in Garam masala. It easily loses its flavor and is used to flavor curries, masala chai and certain vegetables.

Black Pepper : Kala Mirchi

Black pepper are used in Indian cuisine at all stages of the cooking process and as a table condiment.

Turmeric-- Haldi

Its yellowish powder is derived from dried roots. This particular spice is known not only in India, but also in other Asian countries because of its aroma and color. It is also known to have anti oxidants and aids in treating leukemia. Turmeric is used for its flavour and attractive golden colour. A robust herbaceous perennial grows to a height of 1 metre with a short stem and tufted leaves. Turmeric is usually propagated from fingers or small sections of rhizome. The rhizomes grow best in a hot, moist climate. Turmeric smells peppery and fresh with a hint of oranges and ginger. It tastes pungent, bitter and musky. Turmeric is also an important flavouring for many Thai dishes, especially in curry powder. Turmeric is used commercially in sauces and in processed food. It is often added to mustard blends. Turmeric is taken as a tonic and as a remedy for liver problems. The juice of the raw rhizomes added to ointments is applied to treat skin diseases. Turmeric is a traditional textile dye. In paste form it is applied as a beauty mask.

Cumin-- Jeera

This spice is famous and important in many Ayurvedic cooking. It is found to have digestive attributes and is used to flavor food such as curry and vegetables. Cumin gives a distinctive warm flavour to an enormous range of savoury dishes. The seeds are oval and 5-6 mm long with longitudinal ridges and a few little bristles. They are usually light brown. But may be greenish or grayish. Cumin is one of the main constituents of curry powders. It is an annual and a hot-climate plant, grows to a height of 30-45 cm and produces a stem with many branches bearing long. Finely divided, deep green leaves and small flowers, white or rose colour, borne in umbels. The smell of cumin is quite pronounced, strong and heavy with acrid or warm depths. Cumin seeds taste slightly bitter, sharp and warm, and their pungent flavour persists for some time. Cumin is generally dry roasted before use to bring out its flavour. It is also found in pickles, ground cumin is frequently added to minced meat dishes and to vegetables. Cumin seeds are used as a remedy for diarrhea flatulence and indigestion.


Pudina belongs to the genus Mentha which consists of about 40 species of aromatic perennial herbs distributed mostly in the northern hemisphere. In Thailand, Mentha, cordifolia are reported to grow naturally. They have erect, square, branching stems, aromatic foliage, and flowers in leaf-axils. Their teas are popular a cool and refreshing taste. They flavour confectionery, drinks, cigarettes, toothpastes, and medicines. Mints are stimulant, aid digestion and reduce flatulence. It is included in ointments for cold remedies, and is given for headaches and other aches and pains.

Common Basil, Sweet Basil-- Tulsi

Sweet Basil is an erect glavrous herb, 30-90 cm high, has square stems with strong, fresh, clove-scented, toothed leaves and small, white, scented flowers, it is easily grown at home or in gardens in ordinary soil. The warm, spicy taste of this popular herb’s leaf combines will with garlic, tomatoes, aubergines, and many Thai dishes. The fresh leaves is important seasoning in Thai beef curry, fish soups, meat pies, etc. The essential oil flavours condiments, liquours, perfumes and soap. The plant is considered stomachic, aphrodisiac, expectorant, carminative and stimulant. An infusion aids digestion and is anti-bacterial, inhaling the essential oil refreshes the mind and stimulates a sense of smell dulled by viral infection. In massage oils, it is a nerve tonic and eases over-worked muscles. Basil should be avoided on sensitive skin and during pregnancy. It is delicious in sauces and with chicken.

Ginger-- Adrak, Sonth, Alla

A basic but not essential Indian spice, used for its warming properties and wonderful aroma and taste.

Tamarind-- Imli, Amla, Puli

The Juice of dry Tamarind are adequate to add a touch of sourness in the curry. It is extensively used in south Indian cuisine and is normally used as a replacement for tomatoes.

Fenugreek -- Methi Seeds, Kasuri Methi Leaves

This is a basic but not essential Indian spice which is actually a lentil and is used for its strong, bitter taste. After turmeric it has the most medically useful item in the Indian kitchen. If it is burnt it gets very bitter and should be thrown away

I found the above wealth at Thokalath

I will try and post the basic methods of cooking in the next post under the same label. Till then, experiment with your spices and make your food a little naughty.

Love Ash.
Post a Comment