Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Indian Spice Must Haves

Over the years I have heard folks talk about how overwhelming cooking Indian food can be or the variety and number of spices that are needed for a dish or how long it takes. Really, it's not at all complicated. Perhaps it is unfamiliar but not hard, I promise. Once you've made a recipe once or twice it becomes much faster and easier, and then you can become creative!

So I thought I would write about the most basic spices one needs to cook Indian dishes.

In my kitchen, you will find the following:

-Curry powder
-Garam Masala
-Ground coriander
-Ground cumin
-Mustard seeds
-Red chili powder and flakes
-Turmeric powder

If you have any of the above and they were purchased from an American grocery store, toss them because you will not get anywhere near the flavor that one would expect of Indian food. If you've made a dish and have wondered why it does not taste like the dish you had at your local Indian restaurant, this would be why. I recently compared American vs. Indian grocery store ground cumin and there is a huge difference in color and fragrance. The American version was cream/yellow colored while the Indian version is a rich brown earthy color. And the Indian cumin was fragrant while the American cumin was scentless.

And there is difference between American vs. Indian grocery store chili powder. Indian grocery store chili powder has more kick so if a recipe calls for it, halve the amount. Your mouth and tongue will thank you.

Go to an Indian store with the above list and I'm sure the owner will set you up nicely. You will also spend a lot less money and get a lot more spice.

So let's say you use a recipe that calls for an ingredient that I didn't list. No worries. Do without, add a little more cumin and coriander. You'll end up with something nice.

With these ingredients, you can curry-up any vegetable in 30 minutes or less!

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