When we talk of Indian cuisine, there is no doubt that the imagination starts to wander into the fragrant smells and complex flavours in a blend of spices thrown together to make various tastefully exotic dishes and delicacies.
It is this complex combination of spices balanced together in a dish that we know and love Indian cuisine for. But it is also what has made many cooks turn away in fear of failing to attain that perfect balance of flavour, with so many spice ingredients required in Indian recipes.
If you are one of these avid Indian food lovers who are afraid of cooking the dishes because of the complexity of ingredients used, then let us walk you through some of the most commonly used spices to give you a little confidence boost. Although many Indian dishes contain a large mix of spices, you can achieve the same flavour essence at home just by learning about a few basic ingredients.
Here then, are some of the most commonly used spices in Indian cuisine to start you off on your Indian culinary journey:
Cardamom: These seeds come in green and black; but green cardamom is more often used, as the black variety is very powerful and must be used with caution. Green cardamom possesses a sweet and light, mildly eucalyptus taste, and is often used in spice mixes like garam masala. It goes well in a wide range of dishes.
Clove: This spice, which is actually a dried flower, has a strong, almost medicinal flavour that adds a unique dimension to dishes, as long as it is used with caution. It can be used whole or blended into spice mixes.
Cumin: These brown seeds have a rich fragrance and add a distinctly smoky flavour to dishes. They are often used whole, but some may prefer the ground version for a more intense flavour. The seeds must be carefully watched when dry-roasting, since over-roasting will cause them to have a bitter taste.
Coriander: These tiny, roundish seeds have a golden-yellow colour and are very aromatic with citrus notes. Like cumin, the seeds need to be dry-roasted, for their flavours to come out.
Turmeric: Perhaps one of the most widely used spices today, turmeric is used not just to add that bright yellow colour and earthy fragrance in curries, but for its numerous health benefits as well. It can be purchased fresh (like ginger) or in powder form.
The five spices above are the most commonly used for cooking Indian food, and you may very well start with just these few ingredients in experimenting with your dishes. Of course, you can always throw in some additional flavours from other commonly used spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds if you’re feeling bold… but the essential thing to remember with Indian spices is to familiarize yourself with their tastes and smells, so that you can combine them as is suitable to your taste. And bottom line, you’ll never achieve that soulful Indian dish at home unless you try!
At Curry Corner, we want to share our passion with you in enjoying the best of authentic Indian cuisine, whether at home or through our menu of hot food items, available for takeaway or catering. You can find a complete list of fresh, quality Indian herbs and spices, homemade pastes, chutneys, grains and other ingredients in our grocery list so that you can start cooking pure Indian goodness right in your own home. Let us help you get everything you need in our one-stop Indian food shop. Visit us at our store or shop online.
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