in Indian food are not heavy and although Indian food is not bland, most Indian dishes are
delicately spiced to enhance the flavor of the main cooking ingredient. Curry powder
sitting on the grocers shelf may be like saw dust when one compares it to the fine spices
roasted, combined and dry ground or wet ground in the traditional Indian traditions.
Fresh ground spices are the order of the day in an Indian home and will
be chosen according to the nature of the dish, season, individual and family.
The role of spices and herbs goes beyond just cooking.
Ancient ayurvedic texts
prescribe the herbs and spices for curative and therapeutic functions. Ayurvedic
scripts dating back to 3000 years, list the preventive and curative properties of various
1. Curative Properties: An Indian
cook has learnt to use this knowledge and weave them into everyday dishes. Ginger
prevents dyspepsia, garlic reduces cholesterol and hypertension and fenugreek is a good
resistance builder and with pepper often serve as antihistamines, turmeric is used for
stomach ulcers and for glow of the skin.
2. Preserving Foods: Spices have been used to make the food
last longer in the days when refrigeration was absent.
3. Aiding Digestion: India substitutes for the western after
dinner mint are fragrant spices such as fennel, cardamom or cloves. Effective mouth
fresheners, they aid digestion, prevent heartburn and curb nausea. Others such as
asafetida and ginger root, have been known to counteract flatulence and colic, and are
added to lentils, a must with every Indian meal.
4. Balancing Tastes and Properties of Food: Each spice
has a property not just a taste property but warm or cooling property to it. It also
has many other properties. The cook generally understands these properties and
cooking is elevated to yet another level by using this knowledge of spices into the
Masala is a word that is often used in an Indian
kitchen. It literally means a blend of several spices. Garam (hot) masala is the most
important blend masala and an absolute essential to north Indian preparations, added just
before serving the dish to enhance its flavor. The rational garam masala is a blend of
cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper. Masala may be in dry, roasted ground or paste
form. Each State in India has its own blend and each family is partial to
their own blend and each cook is partial to his bend which may be many and which change
South India has a wonderful blend of wet spices where the spices are ground with various
combinations of spices, fresh herbs and nuts.