5 Must Have Indian Spices for Your Pantry
Spices - including whole and ground - are often blended into complex spice mixes, which can be intimidating for people unfamiliar with Indian cooking. Once people become familiar with our spices, they begin to realize that cooking this cuisine is not as difficult as they thought. The number of Indian spices exceeds 40. There are many rare and regionally specific spices, like the stone flower and garcinia. Our list of 5 essential spices covers several centuries-old culinary traditions across the Indian subcontinent and can be found in almost all Indian food.
5 Essential Spices from India:
Almost all spices, aside from nutmeg, are dry-roasted before grinding to release the essential oils. The mortar and pestle are a useful tool for blending some spices, but grinding spices or blending is usually recommended in order to ensure that your mixtures are finely ground due to the hardness and difficulty of blending down some spices, such as cassia bark.
The anise notes of clove can be readily distinguished in many Indian dishes. In clove, there are many essential oils that contribute to its strong, almost medicinal flavor. It is possible to use cloves whole or blend them with other spices.
#2 Black pepper
Originally native to India, black pepper is grown in the Western Ghats and Malabar regions. The largest peppercorn, known as a Tellicherry peppercorn, is renowned for its strong flavor and greater pungent quality. As with most spices, black pepper must be toasted prior to blending. You may also grind fresh black pepper directly into dishes for the best flavor.
Traditionally, both green and black cardamoms are used in Indian cuisine. Spice mixes, lassis, and Indian desserts commonly use the green variety. It has a light, sweet flavor, enhanced by a hint of eucalyptus. In spice mixes like garam masala, cardamom can be ground whole, but for sweets or desserts, the pods should be opened and the seeds lightly crushed. In contrast, black cardamom is highly potent and smoky, so it is best used with extreme caution. Ideally, you should remove the whole pod before eating the dish, as the seeds can be very spicy if eaten whole.
#4 Cassia bark
Known as Chinese cinnamon, Cassia is collected from the bark of evergreen trees and is the most common cinnamon sold in the United States. In comparison to Ceylon cinnamon or "true" cinnamon, it has a warming aroma and flavor. Cassia is used more often in Indian cuisine than true cinnamon since the flavor is milder and more quantities can be used. To check for freshness, rub some on your fingers and you'll be able to distinguish its rough, bark-like texture. Fresh bark smells of cinnamon.
In Indian cuisine, cumin is often used in its whole form or mixed with other spices to add a smoky flavor. A distinctive feature of this seed is that it has ridged brown seeds and a strong aroma. Generally called Jeera in India, this spice is commonly confused with caraway, fennel, and anise seeds. The difference can be detected by its colour (a brown colour in contrast with green fennel ) as well as its flavour ( smoky in contrast to a stronger licorice flavour). The most intense flavor of cumin can be achieved by grinding it fresh. It is important to remember that cumin burns very easily when dry-roasted, which will leave a bitter taste in your mouth when consumed. Just roast the seeds for about 30 seconds, until the aroma of toast begins to fill the air. Once ground into a powder, the seeds should be quickly cooled and blended with the remaining ingredients.
The Best Way to Store Spices
In order to keep spices fresh, both whole and ground, they should be stored in airtight containers in a cool, dark location (for instance, your spice cabinet). It is best to keep spices away from heat and light to prolong their life. Keeping whole spices in the freezer will extend their shelf life even further.