Understanding Basic Spices for Indian Cooking

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Indian cooking is all about its spices- What spice is used in what way can make or break the entire dish. However, this information can get pretty overwhelming if you are starting with learning basic cooking. So, here is a guide to The twelve basic spices you need to begin cooking Indian cuisine.

  1. Dried Red Chillies: The most common Indian dried red chiles range from medium-hot to Very hot. This spice can be used in dried powdered form just the whole dried can be used in oils to add flavour.

  1. Turmeric: turmeric powder adds colour to many dishes from dals to rice. Turmeric’s real contribution is its health benefits and colour. It is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and helps with heart disease, depression, and arthritis. Turmeric is typically added in powder form (usually a tablespoon or two) to a curry sauce after the wet ingredients have been added.

  1. Cumin: Cumin is an incredibly flavourful spics and is usually used as a whole in oils to impart flavour (the process called Taarka). Cumin also constitutes to the Garam Masala spice mix.
  1. Corriander seeds:  Coriander seeds are derived from the seed of cilantro. This seed has an aroma like citrus mixed with some leafy, woody notes. It’s best to grind these seeds and store them in powder form for curries.
  1. Green Cardomom:  Usually green cardamom pods called Choti ellaichi in Hindi are used as a whole in dishes such as biryani and non-vegetarian curries. Usually between two and six whole cardamom pods are what you will find in an Indian recipe.
  1. Asafoetida:  Often known Hing in Hindi, It imparts a strong flavour a distinctive garlicky, truffle-like flavour kick to dals and other lentil dishes.

  1. Fenugreek: Known as Meethi, Fenugreek is a subtle spice. The seeds, in particular, have a trace of bitterness and a hint of maple. You may use the ground seeds or the leaves, and either one has a sweet/bitter flavour.

  1. Indian Bay Leaf: Indian bay leaf is added as a whole leaf and usually cooked for the length of the dish, removed just before serving. Its flavour is somewhere between clove and cinnamon.
  1.  Cinnamon: India cinnamon sticks are used to season savoury meat and rice dishes. Usually cinnamon is fried whole at the beginning cooking an Indian dish and left in.
  1. Mustard Seeds: Whether yellow or black, mustard seeds are an essential component in Indian cooking. Their nutty, sharp note adds a kick to many curries. They are often favoured for cooking in oil at the beginning of preparing a recipe.
  1. Curry Leaves: Curry leaves are heavily used in south Indian cuisines and used for tempering Indian dishes. Used in both fresh and dried curry leaves are known to have several health benefits as well.
  1. Cloves:  known for their intense and robust flavour, cloves are essential when it comes to Indian spices. Cloves are added as a whole in hot oils to impart flavour at the beginning of the dish’s preparation. Sometimes they are also added to some sweet words to add a kick to the sweet dish.

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