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Spices in Indian Cooking

Usefulness of spices in Indian cooking- A small quantity makes a large difference

Can you ever imagine of any Indian cuisine without spices? The answer which comes instantly is “NO”.

Indian spices have worldwide acclaim for the countless health benefits they provide apart from contributing to the taste and texture of food. Some of them are traditionally used as beauty products while others are used for medicinal purposes.

If you know the use of a particular spice, you can be creative in your culinary explorations.  Here’s an overview of some of the commonly used spices of India:

  1. Asafoetida (hing) - This pungent smelling spice is the hardened resin of a plant. It is used as a popular flavouring agent in the preparation of Sambar and other South Indian delicacies. Asafoetida has proven effects in treating asthma, digestive disorders and menstrual problems.
  2. Cumin- cumin seeds are long, flat, earthy flavoured seeds that are used in tempering most of the Indian dishes. It is used in the preparation of pongal, jeera rice, various types of daal, biryani and in making Shahi Garam Masala. Cumin seeds contain iron and boost your immune system. It is also an excellent remedy for indigestion, morning sickness, anaemia, flu and diarrhoea.
  3. Turmeric- The bright yellow coloured root is probably the most essential ingredient of any Indian cuisine. A small amount of turmeric powder lends a golden yellow tinge a dish. Turmeric is also an age-old antiseptic which is used for treating common cold, skin rashes and any kind of inflammation.
  4. Fenugreek seeds (methi) - The yellowish, hard bitter tasted seeds are packed with immense health benefits. Fenugreek seeds are used whole and in powdered forms in various Indian dishes e.g. sambar mix, pickles and daal. It helps in reducing cholesterol and diabetes and increasing breast milk for lactating mothers.
  5. Saffron (kesar) - These crimson coloured delicate threads are considered to be the most expensive spice in the world. A pinch of saffron strands is soaked in lukewarm milk and used for making exclusive sweet dishes, pulaos and biryanis. It has anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. The stigma of saffron flower is also traditionally used as skincare product.

Besides all these spices mentioned above, there are a lot more viz. cardamom, star anise, clove, ginger, pepper and others that are used in Indian cuisines down the ages. Using these spices in the right proportion will give you their best benefits while overuse may lead to health problems. 

Spice up your platter by striking the balance!

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