A taste of Indian cuisine, Indian food and Indian cooking may easily evoke dreams of distant lands, exotic travel, and adventurous expeditions. As a matter of fact, Indian ships have historically transported spices and spice blends to Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Egypt many years ago. King Salomon was said to purposely send Phoenician sailors to the Indian coast to purchase whole spices. Still today, India is often kindly referred to as ”the home of Spices” and with all the variety of spices produced, very understandably indeed.
A trip to a local Indian market may be quite a view for first-time visitors. Essential spices are artistically displayed one beside the other as the earthy aromas fill the air. With such enormous assortments and varieties of spices produced, it comes as no surprise why India claims first place in the world for their production. The cause of this world record is due mainly to the fact that the country of India is home to a variety of climates, which ultimately give life to almost all the variety of spices possibly imaginable.
Listing all the different spices produced in India may translate into a very extensive list. Only the most prominent, therefore, will be mentioned, in this ”Guide to Indian Spices”.
Table of Contents
Ginger has had a dual function for many years in India, both as a medicine with great health benefits and as a spice. The ginger rhizome is commonly used in many Indian dishes from the main course to teas and desserts. Ginger has a typical pungent flavour with a spicy, yet sweet characteristic. Ginger candy is often produced in India as Indian dessert.
Fenugreek & Fenugreek Seeds
Both leaves and seeds of this plant are used as aromatic spices. It plays a main role in the making of curry and is often used to make a special bread called ”khakra”.
These seeds are one of the main ingredients of curry powder. They have a sharp flavour and are usually used for savoury dishes. These seeds are fried or roasted to bring out the flavour before use. Sometimes they are also soaked in vinegar to soften them before they are used. They are also a favourite common Indian spice to be added to bread and chutneys.
The pleasant yellow-gold colour of curry is thanks to the presence of turmeric in powder form. It was once known as Indian Saffron because it was used often as a replacement for the more expensive saffron. Turmeric exhibits a typical peppery, mustard-like flavour. Sangli, an Indian town, is considered the largest producer of turmeric in Asia.
Curry is often mistakenly thought to be a spice. In reality, curry is simply a blend of spices consisting of the following: coriander, black pepper, fenugreek, cumin, chilli, mustard, and salt. Different varieties of curry are produced in India, often encompassing more spices presented in different proportions. Often secret curry recipes are passed down from generation to generation.
Coriander is often used in the production of Indian curry and garam masala. Its leaves may be cooked until the flavour is less intense. Its seeds excrete a characteristic lemon flavour when crushed. When roasted, coriander seeds may produce a snack called ”dhana dal”.
Cumin powder and seeds are appreciated in Indian cuisine for their characteristic aroma. It is commonly added to other spices in order to make curry.
Cardamom has a lovely sweet smell to it and is used in many Indian dishes. There are brown seeds inside the pods that are used for sweet or savoury Indian meals. There are different colours of seeds that give off different flavours. There is brown, black, green, and white cardamom, and these seeds can be used whole or crushed depending on the dish.
Native to Kashmir in India this is one of the most expensive spices you can find in the grocery store. It is said to be the most expensive in the world. It is an essential ingredient used in savoury and sweet dishes and has a bitter and musky taste. This ancient times spice also is said to act as an aphrodisiac.
Although this spice is native to Southern China, it is used a lot in Indian dishes. It is used in rice dishes, chicken dishes, and curries. It gives a strong liquorice flavour that is more pungent than aniseed. The star anise also helps with digestion and soothing coughs. This spice is star-shaped and a dark red colour.
This not-so-common spice is often mistaken for cinnamon, but it has a finer texture than cinnamon when it is ground and that’s how you can tell the difference. Cassia is used in light curries, rice dishes, and also sweet and vegetable Indian dishes. The aroma is very distinctive, if too much is used in cooking it can give off a very pungent taste.
A wide array of popular Indian spices and herbs make India’s cuisine colourful, fragrant and delicious. The country cultivates hundreds of spices and herbs, making the Southeast Asian nation a leader in the spice trade. Use Indian spices for an exotic flare, or to spice up an otherwise particularly bland dish.
Masalas are made from a mixture of ground spices and dried seeds. Masala is made from an aromatic mixture of spices. Masalas can be made from fresh ingredients, ground in a stone mortar, or made from dried ingredients ground into a fine powder. Commonly, masalas make up the heart of the flavor in meat dishes. Whole coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, black cumin seeds, dry ginger, green cardamom, whole cloves, cinnamon, and sometimes even mace are blended together to make graham masala, which is used in meat and chicken dishes. You can make graham masala at home by roasting the spices in a skillet, allowing them to cool, and grinding them together in a coffee grinder.
Curry leaves can be used in cooking either fresh or dried and ground. Fresh curry leaves give a spicy citrus fragrance. Vegetarian dishes feature fresh curry leaves, and they seldom appear in nonvegetarian dishes. When using curry leaves, remove the leaves before serving the dish. Fresh curry leaves can be stored in the refrigerator and may also be frozen.
Curry powder is used as the base for many dishes and traditional recipes of Indian curries. Curry powders feature a mixture of spices, including coriander, turmeric, chillies, cumin, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cassia, and clove. Add curry powder to any mixture to provide a deep fragrance and rich colour to your vegetarian or meat dish.
These are some of the spices and spice mixes used in Indian foods, they have their own unique flavours, and can be used in many forms. When choosing Indian spices from a store make sure they have a good colour and smell before you buy them. Dried spices should be stored in air-tight containers to keep them in the best condition. They should be kept away from direct sunlight and not near any direct heat source.
Of course, these are only a few of the many spices produced in India. Other special Indian spices produced are aniseed, chillies, fennel, mustard, nutmeg, pepper, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, mace, saffron, cloves, mustard seed, dill, cinnamon, and many, many more. Indian cuisine is quite an adventure for the taste buds, there is surely a lot to explore in its various exotic dishes. After all, variety is the ”spice” of life!
There are a great many Indian spices that add flavour to a variety of different dishes. Many unusual spices with unique tastes come from the addition of Indian spices. The aromatic and spicy flavours these spices add to a meal are of an unusual and highly delicious taste.