Spices Of India – Culinary & Medicinal Delight
The spices of India are known the world over for their strong aroma and the delicious flavors they offer to the Indian cuisine. But what you may not know is the fact that almost all these spices possess several medicinal qualities too. Since India is a diverse country, the spices are diverse too, tailormade for being used in the various cuisines within the Indian cuisine. Here is a list of the major Indian spices used in India and now the world over...
To maintain the authentic flavor of the spices through this blog as well, Indian or Hindi names of the spices have been used, followed by their English version:
1. Adrak (Ginger/Dry Ginger):
Right from the starters to desserts, and drinks, ginger is used in almost every course of meal. This spice is particularly known for its medicinal qualities, which include: fights against common cold and flu, relieves from respiratory problems, prevents blood clotting, and battles against cardiovascular disease.
2. Ajwain (Thyme Seeds):
Believed to have antiseptic properties, this spice is used specially to make paranthas (griddle-cooked stuffed chapatis with lots of clarified butter). The spice can be used to treat indigestion and low appetite too.
3. Chhoti Elaichi (Green Cardamom):
This spice is basically used to induce fragrance in the food and is used to prepare desserts, drinks, and main course meals such as pilaf. Its medicinal uses include treatment of teeth infections, throat troubles, lung congestion, and even pulmonary tuberculosis.
4. Badi Elaichi (Black Cardamom):
Also known as Bengal cardamom, this spice is used for its strong flavor, which smells somewhat of camphor. It is used dried and more often than not, this ends up being used to treat stomach disorders and malaria.
5. Dalchini (Cinnamon):
You may have heard of the cinnamon buns but in Indian cuisine, cinnamon has a widespread use, right from the sweet and savory items to main course meals such as Biryani. Cinnamon has been found to help people lower their LDL cholesterol levels significantly. It also works for blood coagulation.
6. Haldi (Turmeric):
The first thing that strikes you about this spice is its bright, sunny yellow color, which, when added to a dish, imparts the same hue. Turmeric is probably the most important Indian spice, as far as its religious and medicinal values are concerned. Besides being used in cooking, turmeric is also used in auspicious ceremonies like wedding.
7. Heeng/Hing (Asafoetida):
It may also be called the “devil’s dung”, for its sharp pungent smell but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this spice adds depth to the food, especially delivering a smooth flavor to the gravy. Its medicinal values include reduction of indigenous microflora in the gut, thereby reducing flatulence.
8. Javitri (Mace):
Isn’t it surprising that some of the spices of India are already a part of the culinary vocabulary in America. Mace is another such spice, which is derived from the nutmeg tree. Its main aim is to impart a distinct fragrance to the food.
9. Jeera/Zeera (Cumin Seeds):
Jeera is used across the world but in India, its significance is something else. It is used as seeds or in grounded form. It lends an earthy aroma to the food and is used to cook stews and soups.
10. Kali Mirchi (Black Pepper):
This spice is used mostly for seasoning but it has a medicinal value too. In India, you will find black pepper on almost every table in a hotel or a restaurant, along with table salt.
11. Lal Mirchi (Red Chili Powder):
The color and kick are the hallmarks of this spice, which is used in almost every dish that Indians cook. Made of dried red chilies, this spice has culinary as well as medicinal benefits. It is used in every form of Indian cuisine.
12. Methi (Fenugreek Seeds):
Besides the sprouts and leaves of the Methi plant, its seeds are also used extensively in Indian cooking. One of the major benefits of the fenugreek seeds is that it is fed to lactating women to increase their milk supply.
13. Tej Patta (Malabathrum or bay leaf):
This is one of the most aromatic Indian spices and its significance is that it is never used fresh. The leaves are dried and then used in curries, savories, and pilafs.
14. Garam Masala (Hot Spice Mix):
This Big Daddy of Indian Spices is actually a mix of various spices like clove, mace, cardamom, cumin seeds, nutmeg, star anise, and coriander seeds. Indian cooks usually sprinkle it over appetizers, or at the end of a curry-making process, because it gives out an instant whiff of strong flavor.
While spices are considered to be aphrodisiacs throughout the world, in India, they complement the food and its flavors. With so many versatile spices of India available today, you can also use them to lend that special Indianness to your occasional meal.
Image Courtesy: ifood.tv