Welcome to the world of Indian cooking. Curry, Roti, Biryani, and Chaat are among some of the most popular Indian delicacies. But what is the secret behind these dishes? Let’s have a look, shall we?
Naga Jolokia (A Type of Chili)
This is the world’s hottest chili. It is grown in Tezpur, India. Despite the fact that chilies trace their origin in Mexico, India is the world’s largest producer and importer of chili today. Different varieties of chilies add different flavors.
Disclaimer: Before you indulge in Indian cuisine, keep your tissue nearby. Things are bound to get hot!
Naga Jolokia can be used in almost any dish you think of, including desserts. However, you need to use them in moderation. Chili stimulates digestion and acts as a natural painkiller.
Tip: Toast your raw chilies (especially the seeds) in a hot pan before blending to release their flavor. You can grind them together with your curry paste or dry them in the sun (or in a conventional oven) and use them as chili flakes for garnish.
Cardamom is a dominant fragrant spice commonly used in tea and Indian sweets. There are two major types; the black and the green cardamom. The green cardamom is more common than the black one. It is sweet and mild and is usually used in cakes, doughnuts, and tea.
The black cardamom is intense and smoky. It can be overpowering and needs to be used sparingly. It is used mostly in curries.
Tip: To use a fresh cardamom pod, you need open the pod and separate the seeds. These seeds are then ground with a mortar and pestle to powder form which is what you require for flavoring. You can add sugar to this powder and use it directly in your drink as flavored sugar. To preserve the aroma, store cardamom as pods and crack open the exact amount you need to use each time you cook.
Cloves are primarily produced in India in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu regions. They originated from Indonesia. Cloves are harvested while green in color. But after heat drying in a controlled oven for 24-48 hours, they attain the silky dark brown appearance.
Cloves are mainly used in pilau, biryani, and curry dishes. These should also be used moderately. They have a warm to hot taste. In your local market, you’ll buy cloves in the form of powder. If you’re looking for whole clove buds source from Indian shops near you. The latter gives the best results, and their aroma lasts longer when compared to its powder form.
Tip: Cloves can be used whole or blended. To use them whole, toast them in a hot pan until they release a sweet aroma, or lightly crush them to release the aromatic oils before adding to your dish.
This spice is native to Indonesia. It gives a deep yellow color and an earthy flavor. Indians use it in sweet, spicy dishes. These include custards, pies, spice cakes, puddings, and cookies.
Nutmeg is a pretty straightforward spice to use. If you’re using the whole spice, all you need is a grater, and you can grate it directly into the food. For powder, just add a little straight to the menu as well.
Tip: Buy the whole spice. It will last for months (even years) without losing its flavor. Powdered nutmeg is effective for one or two months maximum. For a natural yellow color in your food (for example, white rice and pancakes), grate some nutmeg.
This is one of the oldest Indian spices. It is extensively used all over the world. However, the Indian coriander differs from the rest in that it has larger seeds with a more citrus and floral flavor.
Dhania can be used whole (as seeds) or in powder form. Familiar dishes that use dhania as a major flavoring include rice and curries. In Western countries like Europe, the seeds are mostly used to prepare pickles.
Tip: For best results, always roast the seeds in a hot skillet until they start to “pop” before grinding to powder.
The Bottom Line
Use the right amount of the above spices for the right dishes. Some spices are stronger than others, and when used in excess, they overpower the natural taste of food or give it a bitter taste. Experiment with different combinations of these spices and settle with the ones that work best for you.
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