After getting married and moving to my own home, I had to learn all about the essential spices that are found in a desi kitchen. Before marriage, it never dawned upon me the significance of these spices that I grew up eating, nor did I bother to learn what each spice was as my mom handed me the spices needed as I followed recipes. Standing perplexed in my kitchen in Texas, instead of facetiming my mom, I decided to take matters into my own hands and self-learn. I was determined to start adulting and did my research on the essential spices needed for Indian cooking, before heading to the grocery store. I browsed through my bookmarked recipes that I created in the past, and came up with a list of spices commonly found in all of them.
Following are the few fundamental spices that will make your curries irresistible. You can put them in a masala dabba which can be easily found on Amazon or any Indian grocery store, or in clear jars with labels on them for easy access. Without further ado, I present to you “The Magnificent Seven”:
1. Red Chili powder (Laal Mirch)
Consists of pure red ground chillies. One of the key ingredients that makes Indian cooking spicy, eliminating blandness which differentiates Indian cuisines from other cuisines.
2. Turmeric powder (Haldi)
The main ingredient that gives indian dishes their distinct yellow color. It is known to have an abundance of health benefits.
3. Coriander Powder (Dhaniya Powder)
It is an aromatic stimulant that brings out the flavorsome savor of Indian curries. It also acts as a thickener.
4. Cumin seeds (Zeera)
Cumin is grown from seeds. Cumin seed is used as a spice for its distinctive and intense flavor and aroma. It can be used to add a smoky note to Indian dishes.
5. Cumin powder (Zeera Powder)
Cumin powder is derived from grinded cumin seeds. It’s flavor can be described as warm and earthy and plays well with others, especially with coriander powder.
6. Garam masala (Ground Spices)
This is a blend of whole spices such as coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg that have been grinded and roasted. The words garam masala literally translate to “hot spices”.
7. Cardamon (Elaichi)
There are two kinds of cardamom used in Indian cooking: green and black. Green cardamom tastes light and sweet. Black cardamom, on the other hand, is powerful and smoky.
The magnificent seven spices listed above can be used separately or together. You are guaranteed to find them in any Indian recipe. Some of the more popular appetizers and dishes include pakoras, samosas, daal, mixed sabzi, curry, biryani, etc. Now you can say goodbye to the ready made MSG filled masala packets, and say hello to a trend that is better for both your health and wallet.