India has been known for its tremendous range of aromatic spices for centuries. These spices make food delicious and have many profound health benefits. Spices stimulate the senses in a multitude of ways. They are fragrant, often colorful, and used in conjunction with onion, chili, garlic, ginger, and tomato. The Indian art of cooking is rich and complex. The art of combining different flavors and notes has been perfected over a very long period of time. Small details such as cooling raita with a biryani full of warm spices leave you with a taste of perfection. This article is about 10 popular spices in India.
Turmeric or haldi is a bright yellow-colored spice. It is related to ginger. It has well-known antiseptic qualities and is also used to bring a beautiful glow to the skin. There is a “Haldi” ceremony before weddings in which the bride is anointed with turmeric paste. This brings about a healthy radiant glow. Mainly used In cooking, turmeric adds brilliant color to curries along with a deep earthy flavor. It is used in the majority of Indian dishes. Some everyday dishes we use turmeric in are kadi, mattar paneer, sambar, masoor dal and chicken curry.
Cumin or jeera is used heavily in Indian cooking. North Indian recipes call for it the most. Cumin has a savory and nutty flavor that makes it especially appetizing. It is used to flavor rice, in vegetable preparations, and in lentil preparations or dal
Green cardamom is a ubiquitous spice used in everything from tea to biryani. It has a wonderfully sweet and floral flavor. It perks up the senses and makes for the most acclaimed of deserts. Kheer and kulfi owe much of their popularity to green cardamom. It is used in the preparation of biryani alongside cloves and cinnamon. It adds a perfect floral note to the heat of cinnamon and cloves. It is the norm to use green cardamom or elaichi in tea. This could be in combination with ginger.
Red Chili Powder
Red chili powder or lal mirch is made from dried red chilies. This is used in almost every meal preparation in India. Regular red chili powder and Kashmiri red chili powder can be found easily. They vary in the level of heat and also color. Kashmiri chili powder tends to be an orangish red and less hot while regular lal mirch is red. Red chili powder is used to heat up curries and kebabs. Many Indians love hot and spicy food and red chili powder is a core ingredient.
Cinnamon or dalchini is a very sweet and hot spice. It is particularly fragrant and is used in many deserts. Cinnamon is reportedly very effective in reducing blood sugar. Cinnamon bark pieces as well as powder are used in cooking. Meat preparations and biryanis use cinnamon extensively. It has a very bold and pronounced flavor.
Cloves are sweet, floral and hot. Like cinnamon, cloves are used in meat preparations and biryanis as well as in many deserts. Cloves have a more delicate flavor than Cinnamon. Cloves are the dried flowers of the clove tree.
Black pepper has a sharp and hot flavor. It is indegenous to India unlike chilis which came from South America much later. Many find it very refreshing to the senses. Peppercorns can be used whole or ground. Black pepper is said to be helpful in healing colds and coughs.
Coriander powder is fresh and sour. It gives a very different flavor than the fresh leaves. It is used in many vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes and is a part of the staple spices used in daily Indian cooking.
Ginger powder is hot and crisp. It is used in cooking as well as in tea preparation. The powder gives a more pungent and concentrated version of the spice than fresh ginger. Ginger is well known for its ability to cure colds and coughs. It is very relaxing to the senses when we are unwell. Ginger and its powder are another staple of Indian cooking. Ginger also aids digestion.
Garam masala utilizes cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and sometimes also coriander and cumin. The ones in the store may have all these ingredients plus black and green cardamom, ginger, bay leaf, nutmeg, fenugreek, or mace. Garam masala is used in rich vegetarian dishes and meat dishes.
A whole assortment of dishes can be created by varying the proportions of these spices. Using them in different combinations can completely alter the taste. Using the spices ground or whole also brings out different nuances. Cooking worldwide has been dramatically changed by Indian spices. Spices become more important every day as their health benefits become more well known. Make delicious food and stay healthy. What could be better?
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Cloves are the dried flowers of the clove tree.
Ginger powder comes from ginger which is the root of the plant.
Garam Masala is a mixture of several spices.
Black pepper is indigenous to India.