“Indian food is mouth-wateringly tasty and beautifully aromatic, with each tantalising dish containing a delicious blend of spices. But what are the most common spices used, and what flavours do they bring to each recipe? Knowing the spice blends will help you to make your own Indian-inspired dishes at home. Or, if you go out for London Indian Food, you’ll be able to taste authentic and unique dishes from top chefs that most appeal to your taste buds.
Here’s a rundown of popular spices.
Curry Powder Explained
First things first, it’s important to understand what ‘curry powder’ actually is. Rather than being one spice that’s used to marinate dishes, it’s actually a blend of spices and can come in many different varieties. Spice mixes are known as masalas in Indian cooking and most families have a blend they prefer. Masalas also tend to differ from region to region throughout India. The flexibility with masalas explains why dishes never taste exactly the same when you eat out and why particular restaurants might become your favourite over others.
There are, however, a few blends that are universal to Indian cooking. So let’s look at these in more detail.
First on the list is garam masala. This can be easily sourced from UK supermarkets and brings a warm, aromatic twang to any dish. It’s used frequently in recipes such as Paneer Bhurji, Bean Curry and Chicken Tikka Masala. The most common ingredients in a garam masala blend are:
– Green and black cardamom – this is a popular Indian spice in itself that originates from the seeds of several different plants that belong to the same family as ginger.
– Cinnamon – this is a widely used spice throughout the world. It comes from the inner bark of the Sri Lankan cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum verum) and is used in both sweet and savoury foods worldwide. Cinnamon is also often used in Indian drinks.
– Nutmeg – this is a spice made from the seed of the tropical, evergreen nutmeg tree. It’s commonly used in Mughlai chicken curry dishes.
– Bay leaves – this is an aromatic herb. Its taste is often likened to oregano and thyme.
– Black pepper – used as a spice and seasoning.
Madras Curry Powder
Madras blends typically include spices like fenugreek, curry leaves and turmeric. Fenugreek seeds are one of the staple spices used in Indian cooking, bringing a sweet, nutty flavour reminiscent of maple syrup and burnt sugar. Turmeric is another go-to for Indian chefs, offering an earthier, muskier taste. For this reason, madras blends tend to have a stronger flavour than many of the milder garam masala blends. Madras curry powders can be made hotter or milder depending on the number of chillies that are used.
Other common Indian spices include:
Ginger – this is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties and is believed to be beneficial for anxiety and depression.
Cumin – this grows naturally in Asia, which explains why it’s a staple in many Indian dishes.