Indian Herbs and Spices

Published: 08th January 2009
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Spices are one of the most important ingredients of Indian food. Without them, Indian cooking would lose its uniqueness and be as ordinary as the others. Spices and herbs are also one of the reasons why Indian food is becoming increasingly adored by people around the world.



One of the most popular Indian food, the curry, is one example of the ingenious use of spices and herbs in India. Curry which came 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 spices and herbs that are used in Indian cooking, however, you need not learn all of them. There are just some spices that you'll use more commonly than others such as the asafetida, turmeric, tamarind, chilli pepper, fenugreek, black mustard seed, cumin, aniseed, ginger, star anise, garlic and coriander seeds. In sweet dishes, rose petal essence, saffron, cardamom and nutmeg are frequently used. These spices and herbs, as well as other things related with Indian spices would be enumerated below.



Bhuna - Bhuna is a method of tempering Indian spices, particularly slowly 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 feel 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 blend of spices cooked in oil. Its most popular version is the Garam Masala which is used in preparing many Indian food 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 frequently 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.



Turmeric (haldi) - Turmeric is used extensively in Indian cooking. This intense bright-yellowish powder is derived from grinding the dried roots. This spice is widely used not only in India, but also in other Asian countries because of the beautiful color and aroma it imparts to a dish.



Cumin (Jeera) - Cumin seeds are very frequently 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 more intense flavor. It's available in whole or in powdered form. Cumin is found to have digestive attributes and is used to flavor food such as vegetables and curry.



Star Anise - Star anise has the wonderful aroma of licorice and is perfect for flavoring biryani's and other non-vegetarian Indian dishes. As its name suggests, this spice is star-shaped with each of its points containing a star anise seed. Ground star anise should be stored in an airtight container for no more than 3 months in a cool, dark place.



Garlic (lassan) - Sometimes minced or chopped 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 claimed to have the property to stimulate the appetite and help in digestion.



Cardamom - Cardamom pods are not generally used but its brownish black seeds contained in the pods are used more often in Indian cooking instead, either whole or split. Ground cardamom loses its aroma quickly so it's advisable to grind it only when needed. Cardamom is a very versatile spice which can be used in sweet dishes as well as savory ones.



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



Indian Food Recipes is an online Indian cooking website offering a collection of free Indian recipes and cooking tips.

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