Sunday, April 10, 2011

Know Your Spices

Living at home with mom's home cooked food daily, I kind of took the spices for granted, and never took the initiative to know what and why are they used. All that mattered to me was that the food smelled and tasted yummy for eating. Once I got married and moved out, I had to take a crash course on spices from my mom, and thanks to my notebook (a real one), the heirloom of Indian spices was passed down to me successfully. And now I can proudly acclaim that I know my spices pretty well, and use them damn good in my cooking.

Benefits of Spices
The ancient Ayurvedic texts list the herbs and spices for curative and therapeutic properties, such as:
  1. Curative properties - Most spices are known to make digestion easier, help in controlling cholestrol and blood pressure
  2. Preserving food - Back in the days when fridge and electric supply was unknown of, spices helped in preserving the foods to last longer
  3. Aiding digestion - Most authentic Indian restaurants provide mints or fennel seeds for after meals, as mouth fresheners and to aid digestion
  4. Balancing taste and properties of food - spices provide us a flexibility of adding a certain aroma or taste into your daily cooking
In picture above, we have Coriander Seeds, Cumin, Black Peppercorn, Cloves, Indian Cinnamon, Star Anise.

Curry powder is perhaps the most popular spice known to most. The curry powder is actually known as the 'masala' which means 'blend of several spices'. It is not just curry that requires spices, but there are so many other simple daily dishes that you can rev-up using a simple spice

My favourite spices that I use very often are:

  1. Coriander seeds - Usually used in powder form, great for flavouring a simple vegetable or chicken dish by sauteeing 1-2 tablespoon with onion, garlic and ginger where I do not intend to use curry powder. I also use it to flavour most of my toddler's meals, instead of soy sauce or salt
  2. Cumin seeds - Works same as coriander seeds/powder, both provide a great combination of aroma and taste
  3. Black pepper - Soak and blend it well to make nice spicy soup. I also use it occasionally in the masala tea for the spicy taste
  4. Cloves - Crushed together with cardamom & ginger for ginger tea. Also great to be sauteed together with cardamom for great smelling dry chicken dishes
  5. Cinnamon - Sauteed together with star anise for great smelling chicken dish. I also use cinnamon powder to make toddler's version of gajar halwa or applesauce, it gives a nice sweet smell & taste
  6. Star anise - Same as cinnamon
  7. Cardamom - Same as cloves. Also great to make lassi
  8. Fennel seeds - Works best when sauteed with cumin & coriander. Also great to boost up milk supply for breastfeeding mom.
  9. Fenugreek - It is extremely beneficial to the health, so I sautee it with almost any vegetable or non-vegetable dish. Also great to boost up milk supply for breastfeeding mom.
  10. Asafetida - Due to its anti flatulence properties, I use it as a sautee for any dish, especially for dhal.
Try adding some spice to your dishes for a new aroma and taste!


Nava.K said...

For Indian coooking, spices are a must, add flavours and so much taste. One which is always used is the turmeric to remove the smell from poultry and fish, also added into curries.

QarezmaV said...

thats right.. once you are used to the spices, it is difficult to turn back :) tumeric is one favourite too, but i try not to use it too often cos it makes the whole dish yellow

Cas said...

We indians love our spices la. I just got a spice rack from Ikea, hope to add on more spices. Think I only have 5 for now.

QarezmaV said...

Cas - i have seen those cute spice racks.. def wanna get it for my place later.. but i worry it might not be able to fit all of my spices..

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