Flavours of India: Spices and Ingredients from My Kitchen

8:42 AM

Is there anything called a rule of cooking??? Even if there’s no hard n fast rule like that but my Dida always believed, knowing one’s spices and ingredients could be an advantage.  Every spice does not complement all ingredients…so to pair them well one needs to understand the aroma and taste of these things. Also a dear friend from this blog world enquired about some of the spices with which I generally cook, so in this brand new year what could be better to start with all the spices and Ingredients from my kitchen.  This will also simplify it for food lovers who are sitting at the other side of the world and still want to taste Indian food.I have heard, in USA these spices are available in most of the Bangladeshi Stores.

I will start with our very own Cumin seeds

Cumin seeds/Jeere/Jeera (More Here)
This is one of the mostly used Indian spice and second popular spice all over the world. It has a distinct earthy aroma which complements Indian food very well.The whole seeds are used to season lentil and vegetable based dishes.  Cumin Powder is used in all types of vegetarian and non-vegetarian curries.
Dry roasted ground cumin is used to flavor different types of chats and street foods.

Coriander Seeds/ Dhone/ Dhania (More Here )
All parts of this plant are edible. Coriander leaves or cilantro is very popular worldwide and roots are used in Thai Cuisines and for vegetable stocks . The seeds are used as ground powder. This has a nutty, citrusy flavor and extensively used in Indian Curries and dry dishes. The dry roasted coriander powder is used to top snacks and chats. 

Mustard seeds/ Sorshe/ Rai /Sarson (More Here)
 There are different varieties of mustard seeds available in India, White mustard, black mustard and small mustard (guli sorshe) are to name a few. Mustard in general has a very strong flavor and pungent taste. Mustard seeds and mustard oil both are very popular among Bengalis and is widely used in South Indian Cuisine as well.

 Bengalis mostly use  mustard paste for dry dishes like charchari or for curries like Macher Jhal (Fish in hot mustard gravy). And till date most of the Bengali household in west Bengal uses mustard oil for cooking. Dry mustard powder is one of the essential spices for making pickles.

to make Mustard paste follow this:
Use the black mustard seeds (bigger ones) if you like the pungent taste otherwise use the yellow seeds.

You can make the paste either in a mortar pestle or in mixer. I use the chutney jar of my mixer for this. but in mixer you need to make a bigger batch.
To make paste just add little water and grind in the mixie on low speed. do this with interval or oil might come out. the paste should not be very fine like paste but little (very little) coarse. dont try to make very fine as it will make the paste bitter in taste. 
Also if you are using the paste for gravy then add water to the required amount of paste. pour the top part in the curry to discard the skin.

We sometimes also add green chilies while grinding.

In south India all types of dishes are seasoned by frying mustard seeds in hot oil. Lentil dishes like Sambar, rice dishes like lemon or tomato rice, veggie dishes like thoran all are seasoned with mustard seeds.

Fennel Seeds / Mouri/ Saunf (More Here)

This aromatic spice looks very close to Cumin but is longer and greener in colour. Smells like anise flower.  All over india these are used as mouth freshener after meals. Extensively used in Kashmiri Cuisine as a spice. These have cooling and digestive properties as well. 

Carom Seeds/ Joan/ Ajwain (More here
This bitter and pungent tasting spice smells like thyme. Because of its digestive property it is mostly used in deep fried dishes like Parathas and kachoris (Indian deep fried flat breads). Dried carom seeds with lime juice and salt are used as digestive after meals.

Fenugreek seeds/ Methi (More Here)

This aromatic spice is bitter in taste so is used in moderation for pickles and curries.
Very aromatic Fenugreek greens are another delight to cook. Dried fenugreek leaves are known as kasuri methi and are used to flavor curries and Biriyani.
These seeds are a very good hair conditioner. Ground seeds mixed in coconut oil or curd helps hair growth.

Nigella seeds/ onion seeds/ kalojeere/ kalonji (More Here)

These again are bitter in taste so always used in moderation in whole for seasoning. Very popular Bengali spice and no mustard paste based dish is complete without a tempering of this Nigella seeds. Some popular dishes are Macher Jhal, simple potato curry etc.
The strong aroma of this act as insect repels. Nigella and dried red chillies wrapped in cloth bag are used to keep closets insects free.

Panchforon (This is especially for my friend Natalie)

Panch in Bengali means 5 and foron means tempering so PAnchforn is a mix of five spice that is mostly used for tempering dishes. The five seeds of Panchforon are
  1. Fenugreek seeds
  2. Nigella seeds/ onion seeds/ Kalounji
  3. Cumin seeds
  4. Fennel seeds
  5. Randhuni/ wild celery seeds/ ajmod, Sometime mustard seeds are raplaced for Randhuni.
Panchforon is Widely  used in East Indian Cuisine. Like to temper Dal/ Lentil or to flavor vegetable dishes like Charchari (skillet charred vegetable medley), Chyanchra(veggies coated with gravy), ghanto (Bengali style mixed vegetables)  etc.

Poppyseeds/ Posto/ Khuskhus (More Here)

These tiny seeds are harvested from the opium Poppy. The flavore is very mild and is one of Bengalis most favourite spice. We mostly use poppy seed paste for our curries like alu Posto, chingri posto (prawn in poppyseeds gravy) or chatney like kumro posto’r Chutney. In general these are used to thicken gravy or for making sweets.

Bay Leaf/Tejpata/ Tejpatta (More Here

These are dried leaves which are very aromatic. Mainly used for flavoring and is fried in oil or ghee to release its aroma. Commonly used in begali vegetarian and sweet dishes, al types of biriryani and is one essencial ingredients of Indian Garam Masala.

Green Cardamom/ Elach/Elaichi (More Here

These are green in colour, contains small black seeds which are very aromatic. These are used both in foods and drinks. All types of vegetarian and non vegetarian curries, rice based items and lentils could be flavored with cardamom like chhanar Dalna (homemade cottage cheese in light gravy), Biriyani or Vgetable Pulao, Chicken curry etc. sweets and other desserts are flavoured with the ground pod.  This is a part of Indian Garam Masala.

Black Cardamom/ Baro elach/ Bari Elaichi (More Here)

Bigger in size than green cardamom and are black in colour. Use is same but aroma is little different.

Clove/ Labanga/ Laung (More here)

These are very strong, warm and aromatic so are used in moderation. The whole cloves are fried in hot oil to flavor curries and rice based dishes and as powder they are another essential part of Indian Garam Masala. Cloves have a medicinal property. Clove oil is used to cure toothache.

Cinnamon/ Darchini/ Dalchini (More here)

These are actually bark of the Cinnamon tree and are used as condiment and flavoring material. This hot and strong spice has a very sweet aroma and form a part of Indian Garam masala. It contains much medicinal property including type 2 diabetes.

Caraway Seeds/ Shajeera/ Shahi Jeera (More Here)

This looks ike normal cumin seeds but black in colour. It has an intense flavor and used mostly in mughlai cuisine like biriyani, Chicken Chanp etc.

Turmeric/Halud/Haldi (More Here)

Without this root spice no Indian dish is complete. Our fiery curries owe their bright colour to this and chiliis. We mostly use turmeric powder.
Turmeric has many healing properties like mixed with warm milk it act as pain soother, mixed with water and applied on scars it act as antiseptic. It is believed that fresh turmeric helps in fairness too.

Chilli/Lanka/Mirch (More Here)

Chillies are used in all forms. Green unripe chillies are used for tempering or as paste. Dry Red Chillies are mostly fried in hot oil to incorporate the heat and aroma and red chilli powder is widely used for the heat and colour.

Bhaja Masala(Dry Rosted Spices)

the ingredients for bhaja masla are Coriander, cumin and Dry Red Chillies. to prepare take cumin and coriander in 2:1 ratio like 2 tsp cumin and 1 tsp coriander and 2-3 red chillies. dry roast till a fried aroma rises. let it cool for  5-7 minutes and grind to a fine powder. these are used for flavoring curries and are used to top chats.

Garam Masala

Depending on the region the ingredients of Garam Masala could varry. some popular garam masala types are Bengali Garam Masala, Punjabi Garam masala and Kashmiri garam Masala. No Indian dish is complete without a final sprinkling of this powder.
to make Bengali Garam Masala take 3 green cardamom, 1 black cardamom, 2 cloves, 1" stick of cinnamon, 1 small bay leaf. grind these to make a powder as fine as possible. (I generally use this for rice dishes.For regular dishes I add the bay leaf in the tempering.)

Amchur/Dried Mango

As name suggests these are dried green unripe mangoes. These are sour in taste and are used for sour gravies and dishes. Like Chats, Chutneys (kumro, postor chatni),Macher tak (fish in mustard based sour gravy). These are mostly made at home. These days’ Amchur powder is also available in market.

Sundried Lentil Chunks/ Bori/ Wadi

These are dry lentil chunks. Various types of lentils could be used for Wadis like red lentil (masur), yellow lentil (mung) or black gram Lentil (urad). Sometimes spices and white pumpkins are also mixed. These are fried in hot oil till crispy then either eaten as it is or used for curries. Some dishes that use wadi are Punjabi alu wadi sabji (potato, wadi curry), Charchari (Bengali skillet charred veggies) etc.

Another wadi that is famous in Bengal are called Naksha/Gayna wadi (Design wadi). These are made with Urad Lentil.

Preparing wadi is very easy. Soaked lentils are ground to a fine paste with minimum water. This paste is then beaten with salt till very fluffy. Then scooped up little at a time and placed on oiled surface. Sundried till dry. 

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  1. A one stop shop for all the Indian spices. Just looking at them is a joy.

  2. Fantastic post, very useful for many of us..

  3. very good post...

  4. great informative post on our spices! Love the pics too. The lentil wadi was new to me, haven't cooked much with it but sounds interesting.

  5. im saving this....awesome info..fantastic!

  6. Really a useful post with beautiful pics of all the spices....

  7. really awesome post and beautiful clicks..gr8 job done

  8. thanks all.glad that you found it useful.

  9. Wonderful!That is so much info!

  10. Just superb! Fantastic photos like a professional photographer.

  11. My very useful and fantastic post.

  12. Hi sayantani...this is a very nice and definitive wrtie up of what could be a very confusing topic

  13. This is a fabulous post - especially for newbies to Indian cooking I would imagine!

  14. Very nice. I love bhaja moshla. Use it in chaats, sprout salads, dahi vada, jhaal muri! I simply love the aroma.

  15. Absolutely mouthwatering... I would love to make this but was wondering what is chun (the last ingredient )

  16. @Anisha, I guess your comment was for another post. but am answaring it here.

    Chun is calcium hydroxide or chuna in Hindi. this is mostly used to make Paan (betel leaf) or paan beeda.
    check this here

  17. No mention of pepper...big fail

  18. @Anon. yes you are right am missing certain spices here. basically i wanted to share the spices from my kitchen, spices that I use mostly. but yes will have to add some more spices.
    thanks for your comment.

  19. An excellent summary of all the most important Indian spices! And thank you for sharing the different names as well. I personally have always been confused between the English names for awain and saunf, so this really helps me remember !

    Maybe you can add pepper to this list? Some of the other spices in my kitchen are Jaiphal (nutmeg), Kokum and mace. And while kadipatta (curry leaves), urad dal, channa dal and tamarind are certainly not spices, they are used as flavourings and for tempering.

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  25. Many thanks! Great post!


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