Spices To Add To Your Food For A Distinct Indian Flavor

by Simona Terron
When you mention India, one of the first sensory impressions to pop up in people’s minds is the variety of flavorful spices from my country. As part of our culinary treasure-house and even our holistic medicine chest, seasonings play a crucial role.

We use them to flavor our food, preserve our produce, brighten our beverages and even in our healthcare practices. Haven’t you ever been tempted to try replicating the buzz you get from a masala-chai latte or the fragrant first bite of a chaat-masala fruit salad, or even a cumin-dusted paneer tikka?

If you said yes, we have just the thing for you. We'll teach you how to use Indian spices even when you’re not cooking Indian food. Play with these incredible condiments to get those quintessential aromas and flavors of India in your food and drinks.

1. Turmeric

Trending heavily on social media, the turmeric chai latte frenzy has reached a fever pitch. It’s all surrounding this little bright yellow/orange root (actually from the rhizome family, like ginger), which is powdered and provides that distinctive yellow hue to several Indian dishes. It is high in antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial. When blended into your latte, it transforms a creamy soothing drink into something even more satisfying and warm. Great to detox with, you can totally replace coffee with this drink.

To make it: Warm a cup of some regular dairy or any nut milk gently, before adding a quarter teaspoon of turmeric powder and add honey to taste. Stir it well, and if you have a blender, you can whip it up for that foamy finish. Serve warm.

2. Cumin

This fragrant seed is already used in a lot of foods but needs to be handled carefully. Too much and it could make the dish bitter or muddy and overpower the sense. When baking bread, savory muffins or rolling out dough for crackers, biscuits or spice cookies, feel free to throw in lightly roasted cumin seeds. Dusting it atop a thick, creamy vanilla yogurt smoothie manages to cut the sweetness eve while boosting its fragrance, flavor and nutritional value.

3. Curry Leaves

It's rare that an Indian dish, especially from the southern and coastal cuisines of the sub-continent, doesn’t feature curry leaves. We love it so much we even make pesto from it and it rocks! Or you can try tempering your rice salad with curry leaves and mustard seeds that are allowed to simmer in gently heated cooking oil. As soon as they pop and crackle, take them off the heat and add oil and all to the rice salad.

4. Tamarind

While it’s not exactly a spice, a lot of Indian food gets its tart-tangy-sweetness from the pulp of this sour, dried fruit. It may not be easy to source in its whole form, but packets of either the fruit pulp or a semi-liquid paste can be found at most specialty stores that sell Indian ingredients. The trick is to create a mushy, slightly runny concoction of the tamarind with warm water until it turns into a thick syrup that coats the back of a spoon. You can add this to your dishes in a variety of ways.
  • A dollop can be added to a yogurt or cream cheese, the dip adds a musky sweet and sour taste.
  • Spoon a bit into your smoothie for extra flavor.
  • Sprinkle some cumin powder in it, stir well and then spread it on bagels or your whole grain sandwiches before adding any white meat, tofu or vegetable toppings. It’s an Indian take on a smoky barbecue sauce.
Tell us your recipes, the cool ones and unusual outcomes too!

Image: Shutterstock
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