Indian cuisine without spices would be the same as having boiled food without any taste. Spices play a major role in the Indian cuisine. Each one of them imparts a specific flavor, color and fragrance. They all have a predefined position in each traditional recipe.
Novice cooks please be warned replacing a core spice with another one can lead to disastrous results, so keep all such urges in control. We Indians can smell a dish and recognize the spice or point out its absence. Such is our inherent training right from childhood that we cannot do without our particulartadka or the right amount of a particular spice in a particular dish.
Let’s read about some essential spices without which the food would be tasteless and lose its originality –
10. The Powerful Hing
Hing is derived from the sap of a stem. It is actuallya resin that is dried into this solidified form. Western countries have nicknamed it the Devilsdung, due to it very pungent and strong smell, when raw. But add it to your kadis, chanas and even meats and it will ensure that the food gets digested easily and does not leave you feeling heavy or uncomfortable. It is used in very tiny quantities so stock on it once.
9. The Healthy Ajwain
We all are aware of the instant relief that a teaspoon of ajwain with a glass of warm water, provides in a stomach ache. Ajwain has a heady smell and is slightly bitter on the tongue. It is essentially put in all kinds of paranthas to add taste and also to make them easy to digest.
8. The Slender Cinnamon
Cinnamon sticks are actually dried barks of a tree. The ones from Ceylon is much sweeter than the one from China. It is essentially used to flavor meats and is also used to provide flavor to pulaos and other rice dishes. Similar to the Western cuisines, it is also used in desserts in India. The garam masala is incomplete without it.
7. The Dainty Clove
Cloves are actually dried up flowers that have been plucked before opening. They are essentially used in many medicines for the teeth and also in Indian cooking. The flavor it gives is very warm and strong. It is always used as whole and also for decorating sweet meats in West Bengal.
6. The Sputtering Coriander
Coriander seeds are dried and grinded every year ineach Indian household. Some are also kept as whole for samosa fillings and other tadkas. Most traditional families prefer to buy coriander seeds whole and then grind accordingly, they avoid the readymade powder. They lose flavor over time so only store as much. It is an essential part of the tadka for Pav bhaji, Sambhar and almost all dry vegetables. We pretty much can’t do without it.
5. The Shahi Zeera
Cumin or zeera is one of the most common spices used all over India. The aroma it impartsonce it changes color in ghee or oil is very unique. It is even roasted and used in powder form to garnish dahi bhallas and other chat preparations. The smoky favor adds another dimension to the food.
4. The Hari Bhari Methi
Fenugreek or methi seeds and dried methi leaves are both used in Indian cooking. Methi has medicinal values too and is often consumed as a whole by diabetic patients. It is anessential part of the Bengali panch phoron tadka. It is always used in very little quantity as it has a slightly bitter taste.
3. The Sharmili Saunf
Saunf or fennel looks similar to cumin, but it smells sweeter and is more greenish in color. Again an integral part of panch phoron, it is also extensively used in desserts and chutneys. Most restaurants in India serve saunf with sugar after a meal for better digestion.
2. The Royal Green Elaichi
Elaichi is used extensively in most South Asian countries. You can take out and just use the seeds or even use it as a whole. It isoften used to flavor meat curries and biryanis. A cup of masala tea is incomplete without it.
1. The Black Beady Mustard
If one goes to find he will actually discover 40 kinds of it. But the ones used for cooking are black, brown and yellow. The quintessential mango pickle is incomplete without it, so is very south Indian dish. The spurting noise it makes andthe flavor it gives to food is unique and so recognizable. The yummy Bengali fish would be solost without the mustard paste in it. Mustard oil is also a common medium, of cooking in many Indian households.