Spice up your life with authentic condiments
The use of herbs and spices makes Indian food such a lip-smacking delight
Indian herbs and spices add distinct flavour and aroma to dishes, besides adding a pop of colour to your kitchen rack
Published: Mon 14 Aug 2017, 6:00 PM
Last updated: Mon 14 Aug 2017, 8:00 PM
Savoury, sour, spicy and bittersweet - there is hardly a cuisine that holds a candle to the complex seasoning that Indian cuisine possesses. The use of herbs and spices to create intrinsic layers of flavour - be it as a condiment, flavonoid, dip, or garnish - in meals is what makes Indian food such a lip-smacking delight. Here's a peek at different seasonings of Indian origin:
The yellow powder possesses a number of magical properties when used in all its forms that it is no wonder it has been dubbed the "spice of life". Its origins can be traced to Vedic culture, which dates back to around 1500 BC, with a significant role in religious context. It is used in food preparation as well as a topical ointment.
The dried seed comes in two colours - green and black - each with a strong fragrance and used to enhance the aroma and flavour of dishes and drinks, from biryanis to teas. Additionally, green cardamom is largely utilised in medicine as a key ingredient to treat various conditions, and also used as a breath freshener.
Tamarind has been cultivated in India for such a long time that it has become a part of its culture and cuisine. The pulp is often churned into paste for use as dips, syrups, garnish or even blended into curries. The distinct tangy flavour also lends flavour to beverages and is also used in desserts and confectionery.
A common spice and celebrated for its strong taste, cloves are either used in its whole or powder forms. Its flavour complements both sweet as well as savoury dishes and is highly valued for its antiseptic properties. Cloves have a prominent presence in toiletries, such as toothpastes, soaps and perfumes.
Cumin stands apart from fennel and caraway with its brown appearance, and adds a smoky depth to dishes. An essential spice in Indian cuisine, it is paired with meat or vegetables or even used as garnish on top of rice-based dishes. The condiment is often lightly toasted before being added to mixes such as curries and stews like sambhar.
Cassia bark (dalcheenee chhaal)
Majority of Indian dishes actually make use of cassia bark as a substitute for cinnamon. It works best in both forms - finely ground and whole. The bark has a sensual nutty aroma, is commonly found, and can be used in large quantities, thanks to its mild flavour. Cassia bark also adds a refreshing kick in desserts such as rice pudding and halwa.
Mortar and pestle
Despite living in days of convenience, a mortar and pestle can still be found in modern households. The device is used to crush and grind spices and herbs into fine powder. With the addition of liquid ingredients, it can also be used to pound ingredients into pastes that are used during cooking to improve flavour.
Spice in numbers
4th: The UAE's rank among India's major export countries.
948,000 tonnes: Spices and spice products exported in 2016-2017
Chillies: Largest exported spice from India to the world (2016-2017)
Source: DGCI&S Kolakata / Exporters returns/ India customs