Indian Spices, Not Just Curry
Have you ever looked at a bottle marked “curry powder” and wondered whether that’s really all there is to Indian spices? Curry powder is a mix of other spices (much like a classic chili powder, which is not really a spice at all, or the other popular Indian spice mix, garam masala). So what are the top Indian spices, and how do you use them to create delectable Indian dishes?
ground chilis: the other major color in Indian cuisine—red—comes from ground chilis, either in the spicy form of cayenne, or the sweeter paprika
cumin seeds: you can buy these smokey seeds already ground, or grind them yourself
coriander seeds: these are actually the seeds from the cilantro plant, which is also used in its herbaceous form as an ingredient and garnish
black mustard seeds: these seeds (which are more brown than black), are used extensively in the south of India
cinnamon: part of the bark of the cinnamon tree, it is used either ground or in stick form
star anise: these lovely, star-shaped seedpods have a strong anise flavor and are used mostly for meat dishes
curry leaves: used either dried or fresh, curry leaves are citrusy and very aromatic
cloves: these are actually the dried unopened flower buds of an Indonesian tree, and are used either ground or in their nail-shaped form
tamarind paste: made from the fruit of the tamarind tree, I’m not sure if it technically counts as a spice, but its sweet and sour taste is used throughout India
The best way to learn about using Indian spices is, of course, on a cooking vacation to India. We currently offer two great itineraries in India, An In-Depth Culinary Journey in North India, which is an intense, 17-night exploration of this vibrant country, or the 11-night Highlights of India. Check them out on our website, or contact us for more details!
What bout you? Do you like to cook India food at home? Do you have the spices listed about, or do you just opt for a generic curry powder?
By Peg Kern
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