In Indian food, there are many varieties of spices used — both whole and ground, which are often combined into complex spice mixes. However, having taught classes on Indian food, it is said that as soon as people are able to identify and understand the spices we use, then suddenly they find this cuisine is not as hard to make after all.Listed are the top indain spices which are most often when cooking Indian food.
Turmeric is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It is another common Indian spice. Grown as a rhizome, it can be used fresh (like ginger) or dried. It is commonly used in Asian food. You probably know turmeric as the main spice in curry. It has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. But the root of turmeric is also used widely to make medicine. It contains a yellow-colored chemical called curcumin, which is often used to color foods and cosmetics. The flavor of fresh turmeric is slightly stronger than dried, and it stains very easily, so make sure you are careful with your clothes and utensils while using it.
Black Pepper is the dried mature berry of Piper nigrum, a climbing, perennial shrub mostly found in hot, moist region of Southern India. It is a surprisingly hard spice to grow, as it depends on many natural cycles, like a set amount of rainfall, which is why prices for fresh pepper vary a lot. Pepper is largely used by meat packers and in canning, pickling, baking, considering for its preservative value. It has the ability to correct the seasoning of dishes, therefore used as a final dash at the end of cooking to effectively adjust the flavour.
Cloves are technically flowers, and a lot of their oils are pressed out before they are dried and used in cooking. It is used as a common spice in Indian cooking and its anise notes are easily recognizable in many Indian preparations. It's medicinal flavor comes from the concentration of essential oils. Cloves can be used whole or blended into spice mixes. The use of clove in whole or ground form is mainly for culinary purposes and as a flavouring agent in food industry. Its flavour blends well with both sweet and savory dishes. It is highly valued in medicine as carminative, aromatic and stimulant. The antiseptic and antibiotic properties of clove oil are used in medicine especially in dentistry, oral and pharyngeal treatments. Cloves are used in preparations of toothpaste and mouthwashes, soaps and perfumes. It is also reported to help diabetics in sugar assimilations.
cardamom used in Indian cooking: green and black. Green is the more common variety, used for everything from spice mixes to lassis to Indian desserts. Green cardamom can be blended whole when making spice mixes, like garam masala, however when using them in sweets or desserts, you would pop the pod open and lightly crush the fragrant black seeds before using.
Black cardamom, on the other hand, is very powerful and smoky, and needs to be used with a lot of caution. Normally only the seeds would be used, and if using the whole pod, it’s best to pull it out before serving the dish, as it can be very spicy to bite into. cardamom is widely used as a flavouring material in whole and ground form. In Asia, it can add a lingering sparkle to every kind of dishes both traditional and modern. Cardamom oil and oleoresin has applications in flavouring processed foods, cordials, and liquors and in perfumery and in Ayurvedic medicines.
Cumin is the dried, white fruit with greyish brown colour of a small slender annual herb. The surface of the fruit has 5 primary ridges, alternatively has 4 less distinct secondary ridges bearing numerous short hairs. The plant is 15 to 50 cm high. The aromatic seed like fruit is elongated, ovoid, 3 to 6 mm long, slightly bitter and has a warm flavour. The flowers are white or rose coloured in small umbels.
Cumin seed have an aromatic odour and bitter taste. It is used as a condiment, and is an ingredient in curry powders, seasonings of breads, cakes and cheese. It is employed in native dishes of Central and South America. In medicine, it is used as a stimulant, carminative, stomachic and astringent. Cumin seed oil is used in perfumery and for flavouring liqueurs and cordials.
Fenugreek is used both as a food and food additive as well as in medicines. Fresh tender pods, leaves and shoots are eaten as curried vegetable. As a spice, it flavours food. Powder of dried leaves is also used for garnishing and flavouring variety of food. Fenugreek extract is used as a flavouring agent of imitation maple syrup. It is one of the principle constituent of curry powder. The seeds are used in colic flatulence, dysentery, diarrhoea, dyspepsia, chronic cough and enlargement of liver and spleen, rickets, gout and diabetes. It is also used as a carminative, tonic, and aphrodisiac. Fenugreek oil is used in the manufacture of hair tonics.
Star anise is one of the signature flavours of Chinese savory cooking. The five-spice powder mix common in China contains star anise. It is used to flavour vegetables, meat, and to marinate meat. It is used as a condiment for flavouring curries, confectionaries, spirits, and for pickling. It is also used in perfumery. The essential oil of star anise is used to flavour soft drinks, bakery products and liquors. The fruit is anti-bacterial, carminative, diuretic and stomachic. It is an evergreen tree attaining a height of 8-15 meters and a diameter of 25 cm. The leaves are entire, 10-15 cm long, 2.5 – 5 cm broad, elliptic, flowers are solitary, white to red in colour. Fruits are star shaped, reddish brown consisting of 6-8 carpels arranged in a whorl.
The major processed products are mustard powder used in the manufacture of mayonnaise, dried or dehydrated mustard leaves, whole mustard seeds etc. Whole mustard is used as a flavouring agent in Indian cooking, whereas ground mustard provides flavour and consistency in Bengali fish curries. Mustard flour has preservative and antioxidant properties in addition to providing flavour and colour.
The Cinnamon is the dried inner stem bark of Cinnamomum Verum. Cinnamon plants are grown as bushes. When the plants are of two years age, they typically measure at about 2 meter in high and 8-12 cm at the base. It is at this stage they are ready for harvesting. It is used in the form of small pieces or powder. It is widely used in flavouring confectionary, liquors, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. It is found to help diabetics in digestion of sugar. It has astringent; stimulant and carminative properties and can check nausea and vomiting. The cinnamon bark oil has anti-fungal properties and cinnamon leaf oil is widely used in perfumery and cosmetics.
Coriander is an important spice crop having a prime position in flavouring food. The plant is a thin stemmed, small, bushy herb, 25 to 50 cm in height with many branches and umbels. Leaves are alternate, compound. The whole plant has a pleasant aroma.The young plant is used for flavouring and garnishing curries and soups. The fruits (seeds) are widely used as condiments with or without roasting in the preparation of curry powders, sausages and seasonings. It is an important ingredient in the manufacture of food flavourings, in bakery products, meat products, soda & syrups, puddings, candy preserves and liquors. In household medicines, it is used against seasonal fever, stomach disorders, and nausea. Coriander oil and oleoresins are primarily used in seasonings for sausages and other meat products.
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