Indian cuisine would not be the same without the use of the wide range of aromatic spices. Each of the many spices in the Indian kitchen is known and understood intimately. Each has a function: some spices tenderize, others add heat, some color, others cool, some thicken, others bring a necessary tartness, and others curb flatulence. The right blend of spices adds magic to Indian cooking.
Garam masala is a spice blend used widely in north Indian cooking. Garam in Hindi (Indian language) means hot and masala means spice blend. The spice blend varies from region to region. The basic spices in this aromatic blend are cinnamon, cardamom, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, black pepper and fennel. Use this spice in small quantities to add taste and flavor to vegetable and meat dishes.
Cardamom is a highly valued spice for its pleasing taste and captivating aroma. It is as versatile as saffron and vanilla and can be added to both savory and sweet dishes like beverages (tea), desserts (rice pudding), curries and pilafs. The seeds have a sweet, highly perfumed citrus fragrance. Cardamom is an expensive spice, second only to saffron. Its origins are in India’s Malabar Coast of south India.
Chai masala is a popular spice blend used in Indian tea to add a special flavor. This spice blend is made with cardamom, ginger, cloves, pepper and cinnamon. It is a tradition in India to welcome guests with a cup of chai. Every family has their own style of preparing tea. Add a pinch of this chai masala to make aromatic tea.
Cumin is one of the most widely used spices in Indian cooking. It is also used in Mexican cooking and Middle Eastern cooking extensively. Cumin has a distinct flavor and slightly bitter taste. It is used as a condiment, and is an ingredient in curry powders, seasonings of breads, cakes and cheese. Cumin is widely used in the ancient Indian science of Ayurveda as a stimulant, stomachic and astringent.
Curry powder is a spice blend used in many south India dishes. Curry powder like all other spice blends varies from region to region. The spices in this aromatic blend are coriander seeds, cumin seeds, red chilies, turmeric, mustard seeds, black pepper, cinnamon and cloves. Use this spicy blend in small quantities to add taste and flavor to vegetable and meat curries.
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family. The fresh rhizomes are similar in appearance to fresh root ginger. They are dried and ground into a powder. Turmeric adds a rich golden color and light aroma with a fresh flavor. Turmeric is extensively used in Ayurveda to aid digestion, as a tonic, blood purifier and an antiseptic.