Basic spices in Indian and Asian cuisine

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Spices can make or break your dish.No wonder their importance was recognized in the historical spice routes of the world. In ancient times, spices were worth their weight in gold.Well,in a way they were right.Right amount of salt sugar or spice can take your dish to the next level.Following are the basic spices which are used in various cuisines of the world.

While Indian and Middle eastern cooking uses many dry spices, Asian cooking uses more of sauces.


Following are the basic spices and sauces used:

Indian Cuisine:

Cumin:Cumin seeds or ‘Jeera‘ toasted in oil marks the start of most Indian gravies.It is also dried and used as a powder, added to enhance the flavor of gravies and appetizers ‘chaat’ like coriander powder.

Mustard: Mustard seeds or ‘Rai‘/ ‘Sarso‘ is also toasted in oil and tempering of these seeds in oil adds a punch to the curries.

Asafoetida: Asafoetida orHeeng powder is added to cumin or mustard seeds during tempering to enhance flavor in lentils and curries.

Coriander or cilantro:Coriander ordhania‘ is a green herb used as a garnish in most of Indian curries while dried coriander powder adds to the taste in gravies.

Dried mango powder: Dried mango powder or ‘Amchur’ is a powder made of dried unripe green mangoes and used to add tangy flavor to curry and appetizers.

Chilly powder or Cayenne powder: Chilly powder is usually made or dried red chillies of heat- mild,medium and hot.This adds to the heat in curries.

Garam Masala:‘Garam Masala’ is a mixture of various dried spices like cardamoms,cloves,pepper,bay leaf,cumin,cinnamon,nutmeg,mace.

Fenugreek: Fenugreek or dried ‘methi’ is used to give a fragrance to curries and in some cases pilaf.

Turmeric: Turmeric is the spice which brings the yellowness to most Indian gravies.It is also mustardy and used as vegetable dye.

Cinnamon: It is sweet yet spicy and has a woody smell.Used in curries,milkshakes,gravies,pilaf to give a nice flavor.

Cardamom: Cardamom green and big black one, has long been used to give a sweet fragrance to milk desserts,tea and rice.

Nutmeg and Mace: Fragrant and sweet smelling these two twin treats are used as whole spices in pilaf,rice,desserts,eggnog and ground to make ‘garam masala‘,and in pumpkin pies.

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