Variety is the Spice of Food
An Indian household is known for its culture and food. India being a diverse country has lots of variety in food which includes masalas, chutneys, tempering, preserving, pickling, etc and the common ingredient for all the above mentioned list is Spices. And that makes Indian cuisine distinct from others as they enhance flavour and colour of the dishes. Spices are dried parts of plant/herb namely buds, barks, roots, seeds and berries.
Spices are different from herbs as herbs are fresh flowers, leaves, stems of plants used for flavouring and garnishing. About 75% of world’s production of spices is done by india. In fact Ministry of Commerce and Industry even has a organisation devoted to spices of India, named as Spices Board India.
Spices are an integral part of Indian cooking, so let’s take a journey to the spice land in Indian Kitchen.
Turmeric: It is an ancient spice, originated in Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It is a flowering plant and has non woody stem above the ground. Turmeric has modified stems that send roots and shoots from the nodes. It has various names as Haldi in Hindi, Pasupu in Telugu, Haluda in Bengali, Arisina in Kannada.
Dried turmeric powder is mainly used as one of the ingredients for tempering in dishes. Turmeric Powder has warm, bitter, earthy flavour and has golden yellow colour. It is used mostly in dishes to give colour. Lot of people make turmeric curry, sweet turmeric rice, pickles, etc.
- Turmeric also helps in treating common cold, cough, indigestion, skin sores, etc.
- Turmeric has much more health benefits that VitaBright shares in this article.
Dry Mango Powder: As the name says, unripe mangoes are cut in thin slices and then sun dried. These sun dried slices turn brown which look like thin woody slices and are then grounded. It is produced in India. This spice is fruity and is added to give tangy flavour in the dishes.
In Hindi it is called as Amchur, Ambya Pudi in Konkani, Mavinakai Pudi in Kannada, Mangai Thool in Tamil, etc. Amchur has many health benefits and is of medicinal value.
- It is high in Vitamin A, E, C and antioxidants.
- It helps in dig detoxification of skin and hair.
Red Chilli Powder: This spice is dried, ground fruit or Red Chilli Pepper. It is traditionally made by sun drying red chillies and then grinding them. It has sharp, spicy and strong flavour. It is a very common spice in Indian cooking. Not only in Indian, but it is also used commonly in Chinese, Thai, Korean, Mexican, American and Portuguese cuisines too.
It is also called Lal Mirch Powder in Hindi, Lal Mirchya in Marathi, Mulakupodi in Tamil, Erra Mirapa Kayalu in Telugu and Lal Marchu in Gujarati. This spice is commonly used in marinating vegetables, cottage cheese, meats, etc. In Indian cuisine it is added to make the dishes spicer as it adds spicy touch to tomato based curries.
Vidya Narayan’s unique recipe of Muskmelon cooler with Red Chilli Powder is a must try.
Coriander Seeds: This particulate spice is the dried seed of Cilantro/Coriander crop. Seeds when crushed give lemony, citrus, nutty and warm flavour. These seeds then ground are used as a spice for tempering in many dishes. When roasted, the seeds’flavour, aroma and pungency increases.
In Hindi it is called as Dhania, Dhanay in Marathi, Dhana in Gujarati, Dhaniyalu in Telugu, Kothamalliverai in Tamil and Kothamalli in Malayalam. Coriander seeds are the main ingredients of 2 major South Indian dishes Sambhar and Rasam. In many countries coriander seeds are used in pickling vegetables, soups, broths, etc.
- Coriander stimulates appetite and helps lower blood sugar.
- It also has anti inflammatory properties which helps in the treatment of arthritis.
After knowing so many health benefits do try Coriander Seeds Chutney Priya Satheesh.
Cardamom: This spice is native India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. Guatemala is the biggest exporter and producer of Cardamom followed by India. It is world’s 3rd most expensive spice by weigh, outstripped in market value only by Saffron and Vanilla. This spice is from the ginger family.
The other names for cardamom are Elaichi in Hindi, Veldoda in Marathi, Elakkai in Tamil, Elam in Malayalam, Elaychi in Gujarati and Yallakullu in Telugu. It is of 2 types green and black. Green cardamom has strong, unique taste with intensely aromatic, pine or sap like flavour where as Black cardamom has smokey, though not bitter with aroma and coolness similar to mint like flavour.
Cardamoms are very common in an Indian kitchen. Green cardamom is generally used in traditional Indian seeds, teas, etc. Black cardamom is mainly used in masalas and often used as garnish in Basmati rice. Internationally it is used in Finnish breads, baking, etc.
- Cardamoms help in digestion, detoxification, treating cold and flu, blood pressure, cancer, etc.
Ever heard of a dessert with Cardamom as the main ingredient? Presenting Cardamom Panacotta with Pomegranate Reduction by Alka Jena.
Cloves: Cloves are native to Maluku Islands in Indonesia. India, Indonesia, Bangladesh. Madagascar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tanzania mainly harvest cloves. They have warm, sweet, pungent with bitter astringent flavour. Cloves can be used as whole or ground. They pair well with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, citrus flavours and all spice. Cloves are also called as Laung in Hindi, Kirampu in Tamil, Lavangalu in Telugu, Lavangagalu in Kannada, Grampu in Malayalam, Lavinga in Gujarati and Lavanga in Marathi. They are primarily used as a spice and flavour for soups, garam masala, sauces, rice dishes, etc. They are generally removed before serving.
- They are widely used as a painkiller in dentistry.
- Since cloves are warm they help in treating cold, flu, vomiting , stomach coldness and morning sickness.
Since cloves are healthy do try a weight loss and a healthy Clove Water Recipe by Shikha Gupta.
Mustard Seeds: They are small, round seeds of Mustard plant. The colour varies from yellowish white to black. The yellowish mustard seeds are spicer whereas black mustard seeds are pungent and spicer than the other varieties. The main producers of Mustard seeds are Canada, Hungary, Great Britain, india, United States and Pakistan.
Mustard is one of the main ingredients used in tempering South Indian and Maharashtrian dishes. Also it one of the main ingredients of Panchphoran (5 spice) primarily used in Bengali cuisine. Mustard seeds are called Sarson or Rai in Hindi, Mohit in Marathi, Rai in Gujarati, Kadugu in Tamil, Aavaalu in Telugu and Kaduku in Malayalam. They are used for pickling and flavouring meats.
- Mustard seeds are rich in minerals like Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorus. Scientific researches have shown that they are helpful in treating psoriasis and inflammation.
- They also help in digestion, reliving cold, aches and pains, respiratory disorders.
Here is an amazing recipe from Bengali Cuisine, Dudh Shukto (Bitter Sweet Vegetable Stew cooked with Milk) by Antara Navin.
Hope you all enjoyed reading about few common spices used in an Indian kitchen. But wait! We have more to know in our next article. As it is rightly said “Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost!” Till then enjoy the first trip to spice land. Ciao!!!
About the author: Ekta Agarwal hails from Hyderabad, India and is a housewife. She is a foodie and love to try new things and learn about things related to food. Instead of focussing on the recipes she focuses more on informative, fact-based, content and research-based articles related to food.