Indian Cooking
“I love Indian cuisine and I love to cook Indian food at home.” Yes, this statement is coming from a person (me), who at one point of a time didn’t even know how to light the gas stove with match sticks. But gradually, after marriage, I took a big leap of faith into the cooking world. And here I am writing this article about essential spices needed to start your journey into cooking Indian food.

India is a diverse Country

India being the biggest democracy in the world is also the most diversified Nation. The different States has different cultures. These cultures plays an important role in Indian cuisine also. Each state has its own delicacies and main staple crop, which dominates the culinary art of that particular region. Apart from regional cultures, earlier India was also invaded by different invaders. These dynasties also left behind their stamps on the Indian cuisine. For example- Mughals reigned India for a very long period of time and as a result Mughlai cuisine is very popular in Northern India.

Indian Cooking - Merger of Spices

Once you are ready to put your heart and soul into cooking Indian food, it’ll come naturally to you. Indian cooking is a fusion of spices and herbs together which release their flavors and aroma to satiate the taste buds. For a dilettante this mixing of complex spices may look intimidating, but I assure you once you know these spices well, there is no looking back from this cuisine.

Essential Spices used for everyday Cooking

There is a wide array of spices in India which are used in cooking. These bold and complex spices are blended together to give the best flavors and aroma. But for an amateur these spices could become an unsolved puzzle. The good news is that every day Indian cooking only needs some basic spices in its recipes. These spices are found in almost everyone’s kitchen.

5 Essential spices

Though there are 7-12 basic Indian spices which are very common in every kitchen, but here I’m sharing 5 essential spices which can be used for cooking Indian food. I am assuming that red chili powder is omnipresent in the kitchen, that’s why it’s not in my 5 essential spices list.
  • Cumin - Cumin also known as “Jeera” in Indian subcontinent. It can be used whole, grounded or powdered form. Normally added whole in the oil, it releases its flavors and aroma. It is also used in powdered form in the curries. Dry roasted cumin is also coarsely grounded and added to the condiments.
  • Coriander - Also known as “Dhania” in India, coriander is the main spice used in many of the Indian dishes. Mainly used in powdered form for curries, it’s also dry roasted and grounded for special taste and aroma. Fresh coriander leaves are a must thing in every Indian refrigerator.
  • Turmeric - Turmeric is commonly called as “Haldi” in India. Turmeric powder is used in small quantity to give a golden color to a dish. Apart from imparting a luscious golden color, turmeric also has medicinal properties in it. Normally used for its antibiotic qualities, it’s commonly used for treating cough and cold. Turmeric is also used in face packs by Indian ladies, as it has skin brightening features also.
  • Mustard Seeds - Mustard seeds are called “Rai” in India. They are added in oil to release its flavors. When added in hot oil they start to splatter in it. They impart a distinctive flavor and aroma to a dish.
  • Garam Masala - Garam Masala is a concoction of many spices together. It’s used in powdered form and also whole. Garam Masala gives a very characteristic flavor to a dish. Normally it is added in most of the Indian dishes. The aroma is mesmerizing.

With the above mentioned spices one can achieve most of the Indian dishes.

Concoction of Spice Mixes

If you want a solution where you don’t have to dive deep in the world of spices, there are many spice mixes available in the local grocery stores and online. My personal favorite is Lucky Masale. They have a wide array of products from Butter Chicken to Biryani to Kadhai Gosht. The aroma and flavor of their products will surely satiate your taste palate. Plus, I personally find them low on sodium when compared to other brands.

In the End

Though it’s an end to this article but I’m sure it’ll be a start to your beautiful journey of knowing and exploring Indian cuisine. My advice - don’t shy away from trying out the spices whether in its original form or in readymade mixes. You’ll surely fall in love with these spices.