Indian cuisine is a delight for your taste buds and senses. Vibrant colors, tantalizing aromas and the perfect blend of sweet, sour, spicy and tangy flavors are purely irresistible. However, if you are not familiar with Indian cooking style, making use of this natural, organic spices can be quite intimidating. Certainly, Indian food involves the use of a vast array of spices. From ground spices to the whole, they are often combined into one complex mix of spices.
There is no secret to a successful Indian dish. All you need to have is the right blend of spices and the knowledge to use them perfectly. One needs to know how to nourish these spices, so as to bring all the flavours out from them and into your dish. You need to cook them perfectly in edible oil or clarified butter, to rip out all the fragrances and flavour inside these spices. This is when you can relish the authentic taste of Indian food.
Following are the most essential spices required for Indian Cuisine.
Turmeric is a natural herb and spices which are used most commonly in Indian Cuisine. Turmeric is grown as a rhizome and can be used dried or fresh. Turmeric powder has a pungent fragrance and is used in small quantities to give curries exotic golden colour.
The flavor of freshly minced turmeric is subtly stronger than dried turmeric. When using for your cooking needs, do remember that turmeric leaves a stain quickly. Be careful with your clothes while making the use of turmeric powder. The spice is well renowned for its several medicinal and healing properties. An absolute gem of Indian Cuisine.
2. Nutmeg and Mace
Nutmeg and Mace, are the two spices, which are extensively used in Indian Cuisine. Mace is basically the dark-red covering on the outer side of nutmeg. Nutmegs are processed by removing the pulp. The outer covering of nutmeg needs to be cracked before grating.
Once the nutmeg is dried out, the mace turns into golden-orange colour. Dried nutmeg is known to last forever. For this reason, it is best to buy whole nutmeg spice and grate it, as and when required for your cooking purpose. Whole nutmeg is more flavorful than grounded nutmeg spices. It adds a warm flavour to your food.
Cumin is often used as a whole spice, to add a smoky flavour to Indian dishes. This is distinct ridged brown seeds which come with an intense flavour. To get the most out of this spices, it can be used in a freshly grounded form as well. However, when you are dry roasting it, make sure you do not heat it more than required.
Cumin seeds can burn quickly and overheated cumin seeds will lead to bitter taste in your food. Toast the cumin seeds for about 30 – 60 seconds at max and let it cool down before grounding. Do not confuse cumin seeds with fennel or anise seeds. Also, cumin seeds have amazing digestive properties.
Indian Cuisine involves the use of two different types of cardamom. Black and Green Cardamom. Green cardamom is more widely used in Indian cuisine as compared to black. It is used for different spices mixes and in a variety of desserts as well.
It has a sweet and light flavour, and truly enriches the quality of your dessert preparation. Though, before using it in any dessert, pop the pod open and crush the black seed slightly. On the other hand, black cardamom is more smoky and powerful. It can be too spicy as well if you’re using it entirely with the pod. If you think to reduce the spice, remove the pod and use only the seed.
Coriander is the most widely used spices in the Indian Cuisine and also around the world. The golden yellow colour seeds have a slightly ridged texture. The seeds are truly aromatic and that too with citrus notes.
In many different spices blend, whole coriander is always there. However, the coriander powder is also widely used in Indian Cuisine. In addition to this, coriander leaves are also used extensively for garnishing purposes. It is one of the oldest spices known by the world.
Clove is yet another spice which is commonly used in Indian Cuisine. It has a pretty strong flavour which comes from the high concentration of oil contents inside it. Clove seeds come from flowers and a lot of its oil content is pressed out before it can be used for cooking purpose.
This spice can be used as a whole or in grounded form to enhance the flavour of your dish. However, you need to be careful while making the use of it, since overuse of this spice can overpower the flavour of other spices.
7. Mustard Seeds
Mustards seeds come in a variety of colour – black, yellow and brown and can all be used for cooking purposes.
The seeds release the flavour when they are cooked in oil or clarified butter. It has a nutty, smoky flavour and is used in all of the Indian curries and variety of curry powder.
Freshly minted ginger provides a peppery and delicious flavour to Indian Cuisine. It is mostly used in the form of paste and powder and is added directly to the Indian curries, for enriching its taste and flavour.
Ginger is an essential ingredient of the Indian Garam Masala.
9. Red Chilies
Chillies and Peppers are widely used in Indian Cuisine, as Indians like their food spicy and hot. However, one can always change the quantity while cooking, if they do not want their food too spicy.
Available in a wide range of varieties, one food or dish in India is completed without a pinch of red chilli powder or whole red chillies.