Indian Cooking with Herbs and Spices – Food and Drink Articles

Mango Salsa Recipe – 18
Image by LMGM
See my food blog, Macerating in Public (… ) for the actual recipe.

Spices are one of the most important ingredients of Indian cuisine. Without them, Indian dishes would lose its characteristics and be as ordinary as the others. Spices and herbs are also one of the reasons why Indian cuisine is becoming increasingly popular to people around the world.

One of the most popular Indian food, the curry, is one example of the clever blend of herbs and spices in India. Curry which derived from the word kari literally means vegetables drenched in spices. Curry became so attached with Indian cuisine that in fact, made it a symbolism of Indian food in all parts of the world.

There are a lot of herbs and spices that are used in Indian cooking, however, you need not learn all of them. There are just some spices that youll need more commonly than others such as the asafetida, turmeric, chilli pepper, tamarind, black mustard seed, fenugreek, aniseed, cumin, ginger, star anise, coriander seeds and garlic. In sweet dishes, saffron, rose petal essence, cardamom and nutmeg are frequently used. These herbs and spices, along with other things related with Indian spices would be further explained below.

Bhuna – Bhuna is a method of tempering Indian spices, particularly slowly stir-frying the spices in plenty of hot oil. This process is used to release and preserve the flavors of the spices while removing the raw taste of them.

Tadka – This is also a process of cooking spices which is similar to Bhuna. However, the difference is that Tadka is used for whole spices only.

Masala – Masala is a term in India which means mixture of spices cooked in oil. Its most popular version is the Garam Masala which is used in preparing many Indian dishes like curry. This mixture of five or more dried spices is usually added at the end of cooking to retain its flavor. Every region has its own blend of Garam Masala.

Mustard seeds – These small round seeds that are reddish brown to black in color are commonly used in Indian cooking. Indian recipes may call for the use of this spice in the form of whole, broken to pieces, in paste or powdered form. Mustard seeds are commonly used to flavor vegetables, pickles and pulses.

Tamarind – This is the fruit of tamarind tree. Tamarind is homemade into pulp or can be readily bought from groceries before it is used in cooking recipes. This spice is dark brown in color and sour in taste. Tamarind is ideal to be used in cooking vegetables, chutney, pulses, sauces and snacks.

Cumin (Jeera) – Cumin seeds are very commonly used in Indian dishes, particularly that of North Indian. Its taste is distinctive, slightly bitter yet gives a dish a sweet aroma. When roasted or cooked in hot oil, cumin seeds release a stronger flavor. Its available in whole or in powdered form. Cumin is found to have digestive attributes and is used to flavor food such as curry and vegetables.

Coriander Seeds  These round-shaped seeds have a mild, distinctive taste and sweet heady scent which can be used whole or ground into powder for cooking. Like most other spices, coriander seeds are not interchangeable with coriander leaves.

Garlic (lassan) – Sometimes chopped or minced garlic or garlic paste are used and sometimes an Indian recipe will call for whole garlic. Garlic pastes are easily available in Indian grocery stores or online.

Aniseed  This is an aromatic seed that is golden-brown in color. Aniseed is said to have the property to stimulate the appetite and help in digestion.

Asafetida (hing) – It is the dried gum resin derived from an Indian plant that has a strong odor and mildly spicy and garlicky flavor. Just a pinch of this yellow powdered spice is usually used for cooking vegetables, fish and making Indian pickles.

These are some of the things you need to know about Indian herbs and spices. Indian spices are not really difficult to deal with and some are similar to what we use in other cooking. It is just a matter of mixing and cooking them in a right way.

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