MOST POPULAR SPICES
The use of spices is very imperative to Asian cuisine. The spices that are mainly used in my kitchen are, coriander, cumin, turmeric, black pepper, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.
For meat and poultry, spices are roasted and ground to give more strength and taste to the curries.
Vegetables and seafood have their own delicate flavours. One must not drown their flavours by over spicing them. Using little or no curry powder for spices ensures that the natural flavour of the vegetables and seafood are retained.
The black peppercorn which is used cooking, is a dried berry from the pepper plant. Another important ingredient in making curry powder. If used in excess it can give a hot burning taste to the curry.
Called the “Seeds of Paradise”, Cardamom is an exotic spice native to India and Sri Lanka. Cardamom is considered to be the most prized spice after saffron.
It is important to understand the use of chillies in the making of curries as they are an important ingredient.
There are two varieties of chillies; the green variety, which is used fresh, and the red which is used in dried form. Chillies are an important source of Vitamin C. The green chillies are used in making salads and pickles or chutneys.
In these preparations they are used raw. In some savouries they are used for cooking. Recipes usually indicate how the chillies are to be used, slit or chopped.
Some dishes call for broken-up red chilli, others for it to be ground into a paste with a little water or vinegar, while in other recipes only red chilli powder is to be used. The stalks of chillies are always removed before use.
Cinnamon is one of the earliest known spices and native to South India and Sri Lanka. Cinnamon has an aromatic and sweet flavour. Usually they are bought in a stick form and are used whole in meat or rice dishes. Cinnamon is known to have medicinal qualities as well.
Used whole for their flavour and aroma in meat or rice dishes. Known to be used in treatment of toothache.
This is an aromatic herb of the parsley family. It is sold in a bunch and can be grown at home. It is used both as an ingredient at the beginning of cooking and at the end as a decorative and aromatic garnish. It is also used in the preparation of coconut chutneys.
This tree is native to Asia. The leaves are smaller than bay leaves and shiny. Generally fresh curry leaves are used. It is very fragrant and can be fried in the initial stages of a curry or put in at the simmering stage.
Cumin seeds have a strong aroma and flavour and can be used whole or ground. Along with coriander it is one of the most essential ingredients in preparing curry powder. Although cumin physically resembles caraway seed, it is different in taste and aroma to the caraway seed.
Used in the preparation of some dishes. Has a sweet taste.
This is a rectangular shaped golden brown coloured seed which has a bitter taste, but is nevertheless an important ingredient to making curries. Care should be taken not to add too much. When used in the preparation of curry powder it is a sort of thickening agent and it also is of medicinal use especially when the seeds are soaked in water and taken.
Fresh ginger is used in all Asian cuisine. It has medicinal value as well.
Mustard Seeds are used whole. It is almost always the first ingredient to be used when preparing a curry. It is first fried for a few seconds in hot oil and when it begins to splutter other ingredients are used.
Nutmeg is the dried seed of an evergreen tree. This spice is used in making curry powder and some sweet dishes and cakes.
Saffron is one of the most expensive of spices. It comes from the dried stamens of the crocus flower. A tiny amount is infused in hot milk for about 10 minutes and added to rice dishes and desserts.
Tamarind’s sour fruity taste adds a distinctive, refreshing flavour to curries of all kinds. Tamarind is widely used in India, Sri Lanka and South East Asia. Tamarind is sold as a soft block of pulp or as concentrate in a jar.
It is an aromatic powdered root of a plant grown in the West Indies and India. It is used mainly for colouring and is also used as an antiseptic.