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Top Spices Around the World: India

12 July 2023

Indian cuisine is quite interesting, as it combines an array of ground and whole spices. This custom spice blending forms a complex, yet deliciously aromatic mix. There are over 400 Indian spices, with 24 essential spices used throughout this food type.

Some spices, like garcinia and stone flower, are only used for certain religions. In this article, we will outline the top spices used for this cuisine.

The Top Indian Spices

Mixing traditional spices to produce a flavourful meal is almost a spiritual act. Exploring Indian cuisine is sure to expand most chefs’ cooking knowledge. Here are 10 of the top spices used in typical Indian dishes. 

Becoming familiar with each of them is your first step in becoming acquainted with this type of cooking.

1. Jira (cumin)

Cumin contains a flavour profile like dill or caraway. It is an essential item in curries and cooking, generally. Cumin seeds are best used when frying them in oil during the beginning of cooking (Taarka) and are best used whole. 

Higher heat will quickly brown cumin seeds (often, in approximately 15 seconds). Cumin can quickly burn, so you know they are done when they begin popping. Ground cumin powder is a key ingredient in garam masala spice mixes. 

Cumin contains flavonoids that provide antioxidants. They neutralize free radicals, which damage cells. By neutralizing them, antioxidants prevent heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure.

2. Haldi (turmeric)

Turmeric is essential in Indian food. It contains an earthy flavour and is a ground spice. Only a single teaspoon is enough to colour and flavour a dish for a family of four. 

Out of each of the Indian spices, turmeric provides vast health benefits. 

Combine turmeric with a dash of black pepper if used for health purposes. It is anti-inflammatory and is an antioxidant. It can improve the symptoms of arthritis and depression. However, the overall effects are minimized without pepper added to the turmeric.

Turmeric contains curcumin, which poorly absorbs into your bloodstream. Therefore, black pepper must be added because of the piperine within it. Piperine enhances curcumin’s absorption. 

3. Coriander

This spice is a seed from cilantro. Its aroma is leafy, with woody notes combined with citrus. It is used in Madras and Vindaloo. The best way to incorporate it into a dish is by adding ground coriander before adding a sauce. 

Coriander seeds lower blood pressure, boost immunity, protect brain functioning, and benefit the heart.

4. Choti elaichi (green cardamom)

Green cardamom has a distinctive flavour. It is close to a eucalyptus taste from a compound known as cineole. The best way to use it is by frying it in hot oil at the beginning of a dish and generally incorporating 2-6 whole pods in a traditional recipe. 

The health benefits are that they act as diuretics and antioxidants, thus lowering blood pressure. They may also have cancer-fighting compounds, protect against cell damage, and assist in digestive problems. Dental-wise, they are known to prevent cavities and treat bad breath. 

5. Garam masala

Garam masala is the most famous seasoning in Indian cuisine. It is composed of dried spices like cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, cumin, cardamom, coriander, tej patta, and other spices. Add a teaspoon or two to fried onions or while a sauce is simmering. People sometimes use it for garnishing, too.

Garam masala is the most diverse spice, and ingredients vary according to region. Therefore, in each area, the taste will also differ. Some recipes will have mustard, fennel, or vary the number of spices. However, no matter what you eat, this spice mix is a key ingredient.

6. Kali elaichi (black cardamom)

These seeds have the same scent as green cardamom. The difference is that they are dried over a fire before being added to food. This technique creates a smokey, blackened flavour.

Many meals use black cardamom, and there is no substitute for the aroma. Recipes tend to use only 1-2 black cardamom pods to feed four individuals. 

Its health benefits include assisting with digestion and promoting an appetite. It also helps manage indigestion, rectal issues, abdominal pain, and excessive bile excretion.

7. Hing (asafoetida)

Asafoetida is a favourite spice and is the most potent in terms of aromatics. To use it, add it to a frying pan when the butter or oil is hot. 

Hing should sizzle for several seconds (about 5-20) before adding ginger, onions, or garlic to the mix. It should be stored in a sealed container to maintain freshness. 

Used to treat illnesses and conditions like asthma, whooping cough, epilepsy, ulcers, flatulence, stomach aches, bronchitis, influenza, and weak indigestion, it has antifungal, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties.

8. Methi (fenugreek)

Fenugreek is a subtle spice. The seeds are bitter, but have numerous health benefits. The leaves are more aromatic and less bitter, containing a maple aroma. Most people comment that it smells like curry.

Out of all the Indian spices mentioned, this may be the most essential. Only a few tablespoons are needed for a family-sized dish at the end of cooking. However, people are advised to begin with one teaspoon at first and then work their way up. 

Health-wise, it lowers blood sugar levels, increases milk production in breastfeeding moms, and boosts testosterone. It also lowers cholesterol, inflammation, and assists in appetite control.

9. Amchoor (mango powder)

Mango powder adds sourness to a dish, but is a common seasoning. Containing dried mango, it is acidic; therefore, it should be used sparingly. 

Amchoor helps with weight loss, is low in calories, assists in digestion, and has antimicrobial properties.

10. Tej Patta

Tej Patta is used like a European bay. It is added as a whole leaf and cooks for the duration of the dish. It is then removed before serving. The scent of this spice is like clove and cinnamon. 

Traditionally, it is added with cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cardamom pods, and frying spices while beginning a dish. They are also slightly browned. 

Tej Patta lowers bad cholesterol, reduces triglycerides, and reduces your risk of heart disease. Additionally, it assists in relieving stress, protects against inflammation, and improves digestion.

Where can I obtain custom spice blends for Indian foods?

Hela Spice provides custom spice blending to our customers. We provide mouth-watering flavours with our perfect blend of seasonings/spices, which are perfectly simmered. We can offer the ideal combination of commonly used spices, or you can create your own signature blend. 

If you are interested in our custom blending or want to explore our fusion flavours, contact us at 905-852-5100 or visit our website here. One of our culinary experts will be glad to assist you!

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