During the 1400’s there was an apt expression: “No man should die who can afford cinnamon.”
This referred to the lucrative spice trade that existed between India and the rest of the world. Indian Spice has been used for centuries enhancing flavour to meat, roots, leaves and pulses.
Indian spices have a variety of spices and herbs that are grown across the Indian subcontinent. A spice is grown in a variety of climates all over the Indian diaspora Over time Indian spice has been taken to other countries where some are able to produce Indian spices successfully.
Cassia, ginger, turmeric, pepper and cardamom as well as the coveted cinnamon established this land on the global market, even centuries ago. The origin of the spices was kept a strict secret by those bringing these spices into different parts of the world, which caused the merchants and consumers to come up with intriguing tales and legends, lending the spice trade a sense of deep mystery. This industry played a key role in various events and developments, one of which was the very discovery of America. This discovery was as a result of the European determination to establish their own spice trade, so that the Arab merchants no longer had the monopoly.
The 9 essential spices for a successful Indian dish
According to Plated’s Head Chef Elana Karp, the key to successful Indian dishes is using the right spices. And the most important step is “blooming” them. She says that home cooks shouldn’t be intimidated by that process: “Blooming just means cooking them in some oil or butter (or if you’re trying to be really authentic, ghee, which is Indian clarified butter). This brings out the flavor of the spices and then enhances anything you add to them.”
And once you’ve stocked up on the essentials, you’re ready to jump right in and cook fragrant, aromatic dishes with all the subtle, lingering, deep flavors of great Indian food.
- Cumin. Many Indian curries call for this strong, aromatic spice
- Mustard seeds
- Ginger. Fresh ginger gives delicious, peppery flavor to recipes
- Garam masala
- Red Dry Chilly
How are Indian spices prepared for cooking?
I frequent the beautiful island of Mauritius often and spend a great deal of time the amazing chefs from the five star hotels of Long Beach and Le Touessrok. According to them spices should be acquired weekly and never in bulk as the temper of the flavour is degraded if you stock in bulk.
Spices are typically heated in a pan with ghee (a vegetable cooking oil) or your normal off-the-shelf cooking oil before being added to a dish.
Lighter spices are added last, and spices with strong flavor should be added first. Curry is not a spice, but a term which refers to any side dish in Indian cuisine. It could be with a gravy base or a dry item. A curry typically contains several spices blended together. But its term is used loosely these days where you will be able to buy a mix masala or generally known as chilly powder to make cooking apparently easier to cook.
As South African Indians we’ve learnt over the years especially the Durban-to-Joburg Indian that ‘buy in bulk’ from your Durban Indian Spice store will keep you stocked up until your next drive or fly-down to Durban. Don’t cringe at my statement as you know I am right.
Here is a list of Indian Spice’s and their Indian name
|Indian Name||English Name||Comments|
|Adrak||Ginger||Used as fresh and also Dried Powder form, see “Sonth”|
|Aamchur/Amchoor powder||Sour mangopowder||gives fish curries tartness|
|Achar||Indian pickle||Hundreds of varieties exist. All are interesting.|
|Ajmud||Celery /radhuni seed|
|Anardana||Pomegranateseed||Dried not fresh. Is ground in Middle East.|
|Bazil / Basil||Fresh basil|
|Choti Elaichi||Green cardamom||Malabar variety is native to Kerala.|
|Badi Elaichi||Black cardamom||Very earthy and darkly aromatic.|
|Chakra Phool||Star anise||Exotic, chinese influenced flavors|
|Chironji||Charoli||a type of nut particularly used in making desserts|
|Dalchini||Cinnamon||Grown commercially in Kerala in southern India. Two types, cassia (common) and royal.|
|Garam Masala||Spice mixture||Blend of 8+ spices. Each family has their own secret recipe.|
|Gulab Jal||Rose water||Flavors desserts. Heavily used in Middle East.|
|Gur||Jaggery(unrefined sugar)||from the sap of the sugarcaneor date palm|
|Haldi||Turmeric||Source of “yellow color” in many curries.|
|Hari dhaniya||Freshcoriander||Fresh green leaves. AKA Cilantro.|
|Harad / hime||Terminalia chebula|
|Hari Mirch||Green chili pepper|
|Dhania powder/ Pisa Dhania||Corianderpowder|
|Hing||Asafoetida||Intensely aromatic – related to Truffle and Garlic|
|Imli||Tamarind||Provides tartness in South Indian curries|
|Jaiphal||Nutmeg||Whole nuts last forever. Powder, only a month.|
|Javitri||Mace||Mace is outer covering to nutmeg nut. Similar aroma.|
|Jeera||Cumin seed||See Kali Jeera.|
|Jeera Goli||Cumin seed grounded into balls|
|Kachra||Capers||also known as Kabra, Karer in Hindi|
|Kadipatta||Curry tree orsweet neemleaf||Cannot retain flavor when dried. Only use fresh.|
|Kala Namak / Sanchal||Black salt||Rock salt, but with very sulfury smell.|
|Kali Elaichi||Black cardamom||Earthy, much used in North Indian curries.|
|Kali Mirchi||Black pepper||Largest producer is the southern Indian state of Kerala.|
|Kasoori Methi Dried||Fenugreekleaf|
|Katira Goond||Gumtragacanth||A thickener and coating for desserts|
|Kebab Cheeni||Allspice||Tastes of Clove + cinnamon + nutmeg + bayleaf|
|Kesar, mayur||Saffron||World’s most expensive spice. Flavoring for rice.|
|Kesar mari mari||Saffron pulp||Actually, safflower concentrate|
|Khus Khus||Poppy seed|
|Kudampuli||Garcinia gummi-gutta||Used in fish preparations of Kerala|
|Lal Mirchi||Red chili pepper|
|Lavang||Cloves||Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are largest producers in India.|
|Nimbu||Lemon / Lime|
|Pyaz / Kanda||Onion|
|Panch Phoron||This is a Bengali spice mix that combines aniseed, cumin, fenugreek, mustard and nigella|
|Pathar Ka Phool||Kalpasi||Also known as black stone flower|
|Peeli Mirchi||Yellow pepper|
|Ratin jot||Alkanet root|
|Safed Mirchi||White pepper|
|Saji na phool||Citric acid|
|Sarson Tel||Mustard oil||shorsher tel|
|Shahi Jeera||Carawayseeds||smaller in size than regular|
|Sonth||Dried ginger||mostly powdered|
|Suwa or Shopa||Aniseed|
|Tej Patta||Malabathrum,bay leaf||Both Malabathrum and Bay Leaf are similar and called as Tej Patta in Hindi. however, they are from two different families with difference in taste|
|Kali Zeera||Black cumin||Sweet, floral and smoky cumin and anise-like flavor.|