Spices and aromatics
are the very heart of Indian cooking.
They have been used since ancient times. They were mentioned
in the ancient Hindu scriptures called the Vedas, ancient
Egyptian papyruses and the Old Testament. Although it
was not until the Roman conquests that western counties
discovered their culinary possibilities, spices have always
been believed to have healing and magical qualities. They
have been used to cast spells, as incense in religious
rites, to embalm corpses, to add aroma to perfumes and as
aphrodisiacs. The word spice comes from Latin
species, meaning a commodity of value and distinction.
During their long and fascinating history, spices have often
been more valuable than gold or precious stones, and the
trade of spices has been an extraordinarily influential
factor in history.
have attempted to explain why hot spices are pleasant to
taste. It seems the burning sensation is the pain of nerve
endings on the tongue. This releases endorphins, the body’s
natural painkillers, giving rise to pleasurable and even
Flowers, leaves, roots, bark, seeds and bulbs (the simplest of
natural ingredients) are used in endless combinations to
produce an infinite variety of flavors: sweet, sharp, hot,
sour, spicy, aromatic, tart, mild, fragrant or pungent. Their
tastes and aromas combine to create a kaleidoscope of exotic
flavors to delight the plate. It is best to obtain spices in
whole seed form and to grind them just prior to use.
significant health benefits and contribute towards an
individual's healthy life. They add flavor and nutrients to
dishes without fat or calories!
the health benefits of each ingredient
is key to optimizing home cooked meals for the particular
needs of the family.
Indian spices are good for you and why? >>
Asafoetida (Hing) - also known as devil's dung. It is a
resin taken from a plant from the parsley
family. It is a distinctive and pungent spice. It is most commonly found in powdered form.
When cooked, it has a truffle-like flavor and a roasted garlic
aroma. It is used mainly for its
digestive properties, especially in the cooking of beans and
lentils, as it is reputed to have antiflatulence properties.
Asafoetida is an important ingredient of the snack called
cheewra - a mixture of grains, dried fruits, and spices.
It can be added to flavor fish and vegetable dishes. A pinch of it can be fried in hot oil before the
rest of the ingredients are cooked.
Asafoetida - Powder, 2.3 oz
Bay leaves - these fragrant leaves with pointed ends are
used in their dried form. These are used in curries and rice
igourmet Organic Dried Bay Leaves
Cardamom (Elaichi) -Elettaria Cardamomum
is the seed of a
tropical fruit in the ginger family.
Fruits and seeds
leave pleasant aroma with sweet, pungent taste behind when
chewed. Cardamom has a sweet, lemony,
eucalyptus flavor. It is world's second most expensive spice.
It is available as a powder, dried pods, or loose seeds. Green cardamoms are the most
common, but there are also black and cream varieties. It is
one of India's favorite spices, used in curries, savory and sweet
dishes, ice cream and custards. It is often combined with
almonds and saffron. It can be used to flavor tea and also is
great with black coffee. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine
to remove fat
and as a cure for urinary and skin complaints. Egyptians
chewed cardamoms to whiten their teeth and simultaneously
sweeten their breath. The seeds are aromatic, sweet cooling,
carminative (cures flatulence), digestive, stimulant and
tonic. Cardamom finds usage in indigestion, anorexia,
burning sensation, debility, asthma.
Cayenne pepper (Lal Mirch)-
is a spice made from the seeds of plants in the capsicum
family (ranging from sweet pepper to chili - in general, the
smaller the fruit, the hotter it is). Cayenne peppers' bright
red color signals its high content of beta-carotene or
pro-vitamin A. It includes both the ground seeds as well as
the dried flesh. It should not be as hot as chili powder, but
it is pretty hot and should therefore be used with care.
Cayenne pepper is used to provide the heat for many spicy
- it is the hottest flavor on earth. As a
general rule, dark green chilies tend to be hooter than red
chilies. Small, pointed chilies are usually hotter than larger,
more rounded varieties. Whole chilies can be seeded to make
them a little less hot. Chilies and chili powder should be
used with extreme care. The hot vindaloo curries are made from
the hottest chilies.
Chili powder - Red color,
fine powder. It is very hot because it is made
from the dried, ground seeds of the chili, its hottest part.
this fresh herb is a fragrant mix of parsley and citrus.
The leaves are rather like those of flat-leaved parsley, but
darker. The leaves have a very distinctive bitter-sweet taste.
Cilantro it is usually added toward the end of
cooking to preserve the fresh aroma. Also it is
frequently used as a garnish. The seed of
the cilantro is known as coriander.
- is the dried bark
of various laurel trees in the cinnamomun family. It is
a sweet-tasting spice, with a warm, woody aroma. The smell of
Cinnamon is pleasant, stimulates the senses, yet calms the
The thinnest bark is the best quality cinnamon. It
is available as a powder but is much better bought in sticks.
When ground, the flavor becomes stronger. Whole cinnamon is
used for spacing hot drinks, ground - in cakes,
sweet dishes, fruit pies (especially apples). It can also be
used in more piquant dishes, such as curries, and combines
perfectly with chicken.
- small, dried, reddish-brown flower bud of the tropical
evergreen tree of the myrtle family. They have strong, sweet
aroma and hot, pungent taste, Cloves are best bought whole and
ground, if necessary. They have been used in India for
thousands of years, not only in cooking, but to sweeten the
breath and to relieve the pain of toothache. They contain a
mild anesthetic. Whole cloves are frequently used to
flavor meat dishes, curries, and soups.
has the same souring qualities as tamarind, especially enhancing
coconut-based curries or vegetable dishes like potatoes, okra or
lentils. Kokum is especially used with fish curries, three or four
skins being enough to season an average dish. It is also included in
chutneys and pickles.>>
Coriander seeds (Dhaniya) -
is a member of a parsley family. The seeds are oval in
shape, ridged, and turn from bright green to beige when ripen.
This spice tastes sweet and tangy, with a slightly citrus
flavor. The English name for this
spice comes from the Greek koros, meaning “bug”.
Coriander is usually sold in powdered form, although the
whole seeds are also available. Fresh green coriander -
because they are aid digestion, they are particularly
effective with carbohydrates like pastries and bread.
Coriander is also used in fish and savory dishes as a healthy alternative to
salt, and it is basic ingredient of curry powder.
- comes from the parsley family. The seeds are oval with
ridges, greenish-beige in color, warm, nutty aroma and a
taste that is bitter, but not hot.
They can be ground to a powder. Cumin is usually dry-fried
before use (drop the whole seeds into a hot dry pan and cook
until the roasted fragrance emerges). It is used to
flavor rice, stuffed vegetables, many savory dishes and curries.
It combines well with cilantro and is widely used in
Curry leaves (Kari putha or Neem)
are small grey-greenish leaves (a bit like bay), relative of
the orange. They can be used
fresh or dried. Their aroma is released by its heat and
moisture. They are sometimes fried in the oil the food is
cooked in, and then discarded. They are
mainly used as an aromatic and flavoring for most curries and
soups. When starting a curry or soup dish, put the curry
leaves into the oil to fry until crisp.
Curry Powder -
Curry Powder is a blend
of many spices and is used widely in savory dishes throughout India
and Southeast Asia. Curry has a particular scent and is spicy
Kitchen Collection All Natural Curry Powder
Curry - Powder, 2.24 oz
Fennel (Soonf) - is a greenish-brown,
seed from Pimpinella Anisum, a plant in the parsley family.
It has a sweet and aniseed flavor. Used sparingly, it gives warmth and sweetness to
curries. The seeds combine well with peanuts and the zest of
citrus fruit. Roasted fennel seeds are chewed to freshen the
breath after the meal. They have digestive properties.
Methi) - is short, upright plant (related to spinach) with
oval leaves. The entire plant has a strong, sweet aroma. The
mature leaves have the bitter taste. Ground fenugreek
(seeds) has a warm, yellowish-brown color with a strong
curry-like taste. In powdered form, fenugreek is one of the main
ingredients of curry powders. Fenugreek is used to add flavor
to meat dishes. It is also considered as an aphrodisiac.
Garam Masala – meaning “hot spices” - is a
mixture of ground spices (recipes vary) (cloves, cardamom, cumin,
peppercorns and cinnamon, bay leaves). It is far better to grind your own
spices than to buy the mixture ready-ground. The blend of spices in the garam masala varies
according to the dish to which it's added so a spice blend for
a fish dish is different to the spice mix for lamb. Depending on the ingredients of your dish, you can enhance the
garam masala by adding other spices like ginger and turmeric
(which would suit chicken or fish). Cloves and fennel seeds
might be added to a mix for dark meats like lamb or beef.
Garlic (Lassan) -
closely related to the onion. It has a powerful pungent or hot
flavor when raw, which mellows when it is cooked. It has very
strong odor. Bulbs, whose segments are usually called "cloves"
are the part of the plant most commonly eaten.
used as a condiment and as flavoring in gravies, sauces,
soups, stews, pickles, salads, salad dressing and breads.
Garlic pickles and freshly ground garlic chutneys are popular
side dishes for rice, snacks and chappathis. Garlic powder is
made from ground dehydrated cloves and is used widely as a
substitute for fresh garlic. Garlic helps to purify the blood
and lower blood pressure. It is considered as a cure for heart
(Adrak)- the fresh root gingeris a knobly
rhizome with a sweet aroma and hot, pungent taste. Inside, the
ginger is hard and woody, yellow and fibrous. It is easiest to
cook with, once peeled and grated. The length of the root
indicates maturity, and the longer it is, the hotter and more
fibrous it will be. Ginger makes a tasty paste, especially if
mixed with garlic. Ginger can be used in sweet dishes,
desserts, or in piquant dishes such as hot curries and stir
fries. The ground (soondth) type is the same as that used in
baking. Ginger is also commonly regarded as an aphrodisiac.
Mango powder (Amchur) -
powder is made from unripe mangoes. It has a tart taste. It
has a sour, lemony taste, with a slightly sweet edge. The primary use of it is for
Chutneys. It is used in soups, pastries, and in vegetarian
dishes as a souring additive, as well as to samosas and
relishes. It can be added to chickpeas, potatoes and
eggplants. More, it is used as a dry seasoning for grilled
dishes and sometimes appears in Bombay mix, the Indian version
of potato chips or pretzels.
Amchur is also
an essential ingredient in making Chaat Masala. It gives any
dish a tangy, sour flavor, and is the perfect substitute for
lemon, tamarind or lime juice. If you are unable to find you
can use a dash of lemon.
(Pudina) - Indian mint has a stronger flavor
and more pungent aroma than Western varieties. This herb is
often paired with lamb. Mint
is sweet and strong with hints of a sharp lemony taste; mint
is pleasantly pungent and refreshing at the same time. The
warm sweet fragrance of mint is cooling to the palate, leaving
a fresh aftertaste. Indian cooking and is widely used in
chutneys, relishes, salads, sauces and teas. Mint is mostly
added to biryanis (Moghul rice preparation),
lassi - the North Indian
refreshing drink. Mint is also
perfect as a garnish for desserts, and goes well with fruits,
iced tea, lemonade and yogurts as well as a variety of
Mustard seeds (Rai) - in Indian cooking brown mustard seeds
are more commonly used but black seeds contain a higher
proportion of the volatile mustard oil and strongest flavor.
The larger yellow variety, known as white mustard are much les
pungent. Powdered mustard has no aroma when dry, but a hot
flavor is released when it is mixed with water. The seeds can
be put whole into very hot oil and popped. Raw food can be
cooked in this flavored oil or it can be poured over some
dishes just before serving. Mustard helps emulsify liquids use
in salad dressing recipes to help blend oil and vinegar and
add a spicy zip. Mustards seeds are a popular addition to
dishes such as vegetable, beans, pastries and pickles.
Nutmeg and mace (Jaiphal and Javitri) -
is the seed of the evergreen tree.
Mace is the fleshy lattice, covering of
the nutmeg (hard nut), which is golden brown in color.
Nutmeg has more robust flavor than mace, but thy are otherwise
very similar. They have
nutty, warm and slightly sweet
Nutmeg is used to
add sweet and savory flavor to dishes such as pies, custards,
puddings, cakes, soufflés, vegetables, egg dishes, lamb, and
fish, and beverages.
Like nutmeg, mace
is a sweet and flavorful spice, which can be substituted for
nutmeg or cinnamon to complement a variety of foods. Mace is
also used in sauces for fish and pickle chutneys.
(Kalonji) - are
small, irregular shaped black seeds of the plant that grows in
India - Kalonji. This spice can be used fresh or dry
roasted in curries, and added to vegetables, relishes, pickles
and yogurts. It is featured in many spice mixtures such as
Bengali five-spice mixture panchphoron, which also
includes fenugreek, mustard, cumin and fennel.
- it has a strong, pungent odor and flavor similar to pepper
and anise. They contain thymol oil, which gives a taste
reminiscent of thyme. it is used in lentil dishes, vegetable
parathas, pakoras and meat dishes.
ground from dried sweet peppers (family Capsicum Annum,
relative of chili) the fruits of a tropical evergreen bush. It is milder than
chili powder or cayenne. Paprika has bright red color and a
mild, sweet flavor with a cardamom aroma. It is highly
versatile spice. It is good with eggs, fish, chicken, crab and
cheese. It can also be used as a garnish on baked potatoes,
salads, rice dishes. Paprika is rich in vitamin C, and so
helps colds and influenza. It is also said to treat digestive
troubles, cramps, circulations problems, and shingles.
Kitchen Collection All Natural Paprika
Peppercorns (Kali Mirchi) -
pepper's name comes form
the Sanskrit Pippali nigrum, which means "black spice".
Peppercorns have a pungent, woody aroma and hot, biting taste.
Black pepper is more aromatic, white is
stronger and hotter. Pepper is the only spice that us used to
flavor food before, during and after cooking. Whole or
grounded peppercorns can be added to most non-sweet dishes.
You can buy
Kitchen Collection All Natural Whole Black Pepper
Saffron (Zaffran) -
is made from orange colored dried stigmas of the especially cultivated
crocus (75 stamens are needed to make 100 g (4 oz) of the
spice.) It is the most expensive spice of all. It has a
distinctively pungent, honey-like flavor and aroma. It is
available as whole threads or powdered. When ground they form
a russet powder. The filaments can be lightly roasted,
crumbled in a little hot water and left to infuse to bring out
their full strength. Saffron is used to color rice dishes,
sweets, puddings, sauces and soups to bright yellow.
Tamarind (Amli) - is the sticky, dried, brown pod of the
evergreen tree. It has a sour taste and very tart, citric
flavor. The pulp must be
soaked before usage. In India,
tamarind is mostly combined with meat or legumes (lentils,
chick peas or beans). It adds a distinctive cooling quality to
Turmeric (Haldi) - comes from the root of
Curcuma longa, a leafy plant related to ginger. It has
a bright yellow color and a pungent, warm, earthy aroma
and taste. Although it becomes bitter if too much used. It is
mildly antiseptic. Turmeric is an essential spice in Indian
food, giving a rich, appetizing color. It is used in curries,
fish dishes and with beans because of its digestive properties.
Research show that turmeric inhibits blood clotting, reduces
liver toxins, and helps the liver metabolize fats and so aids