Any Indian spices that you recommend?

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georgevan

Senior Cook
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something about Indian spices that seem special in a way. Exotic. Any recommendations and what to use on?
 
I do recommend shopping for them at an Indian store, if you have one nearby. I do NOT recommend using what you might find at the regular grocery store.

What do you want to cook? Meats, veggies, rice...??
 
For the most part, I don't think they're exotic.

The less common ones I can think of off hand:

fenugreek seed
fenugreek leaves
hing / asafoetida
nigella seeds
curry leaves

The more common ones

cumin
coriander
ginger
turmeric
cinnamon
cardamom
cloves
mustard
chiles fresh/dried/powdered

it's more about how you combine them and bloom their flavors at the right point and temperature.

One thing I think most Americanized recipes fail to do is use enough oil, make the well browned onions, and opt for a single spice dump instead of blooming some first and adding others later. I would also say that Americanized recipes don't use tomato well. Americans want to use a simple product like canned tomatoes. But they don't want to deal with a partial can. And so few of us buy tomato paste in a tube which is an easy way to add a small amount of tomato without waste but build those flavors in something more approaching the tradition.
 
I become overwhelmed and confused to the point that I don’t know where to start.

I’ve tried a few supermarket spice blends with mixed results and have avoided making a large investment in individual spices or sauces that I’m not familiar with.

Truth be told I wouldn’t know if I made a dish correctly or not. All I know is what I like and don’t like.

For me the best approach to understand a new style of cooking is to find a few Americanized recipes that rely on readily available ingredients with only a few exotic must haves.

The kind of foods a recent immigrant with a limited budget would cook using what is readily available in the average supermarket.
 
As just said - if you've never had the dish - how are you supposed to know what it tastes like?

One good possibility is get an invite to pepperhead's for supper.
Or go to a local restaurant and try a dish or two.

if that is not possible or appealing but you still want to know -
and although not the best suggestion

buy frozen at your grocer's and try one or two, pick one that is acceptable and look up and compare recipes for that dish!
 
Thymeless's list covers may of the more commonly used Indian spices that I come across,
Garam Masala is another spice blend that is commonly called for ( in the recipes I make), a;pmg with Cilantro leaves.

I remember the first time I ever cooked Indian food. I found a recipe, and being newly married , I had a completely understocked kitchen and spice cabinet. One thing I found out, is that Indian recipes call for many many different spices. Anyway, I made a list and went shopping. $80 later ( Back in the 90's) , I had all the spices I needed to make the recipe. Even though I needed a Tbs of this, and a pinch of that, still had to buy the whole bag/ jar. I love Indian food, so it didn't go to waste.
 
@pepperhead212 I laughed at 'get an invite to pepperhead's'. I liked the rest of the post too.

I make some indian recipes but mr bliss doesn't or hasn't liked them for the most part. Sometimes I just make one for myself.
 
What kinds of Indian foods do you like? Any particular region you prefer the food from? Hopefully, as noted above, you have an Indian market nearby, though of course, anything can be bought online these days. The lists given by thymeless above, are pretty good, and if you have the Indian market nearby, you should be able to get the fresh curry leaves.

Back when I started making Indian food,
I really didn't like almost everything I had, up to that point, because so much of it had cinnamon in it - raw cinnamon. And almost all store bought garam masala had raw spices in it, but when I made some from a recipe in which all of the spices were dry roasted in a skillet, and the flavor was totally different! So I started getting into Indian cooking, and
finding more and more spices I needed. And I found recipes for spice mixes, and almost all had toasted spices, which made them delicious.

One of the essential ingredients you will need, and most supermarkets won't have, unless maybe in an Indian neighborhood, is the coriander seed they use - a sort of gold one, and oval, instead of round, brown variety, from other areas. No other spices I've seen with different varieties like that, except black pepper, which is more a regional thing, and the dried chilis. The small ones, like the Thai and small Chinese dried peppers are used a lot, but also in a larger, milder Kashmiri peppers, which is what is usually used when they refer to simply "chili powder", not our Tex-Mex mix of chili powder. Many others, too, but these are the usual ones. You can also use some Numex, in place of the milder ones, or chile de árbol, or similar peppers, for the hot ones.

Here is a photo of the box of the "most used" spices, along with the curry leaves.
Indian spices by pepperhead212, on Flickr

Curry tree 9-5 by pepperhead212, on Flickr
 
Just a warning,

hing / asafoetida smells pretty bad. Only a small amount is used generally and it doesn't make the dish it's used in smell or taste bad, but that whiff that comes out when you open the bottle is not pleasant.
 
Google " madhur jaffrey recipe " and look through them to see if any appeal. She is a well respected Indian cook, among other endeavors. We have a couple of her older cookbooks that I got used from Amazon really cheap. Her older cookbooks used Americanized ingredients so the average cook would be able to find them, but the dishes are still exotic and special tasting.
 
Is there such a thing as a most common indian sauce or indian curry sauce that someone that has little experience can try?
 
I did a map search, apparently you have a number of Indian grocers and restaurants in the area. I would start there. Maybe one of the grocery stores sells some homemade stuff...many I have visited do so. Strike up a conversation and see where that goes.

Otherwise, I might suggest trying a curry recipe. I like chicken curry, but to each their own! I first got interested in Indian recipes when I had an Indian neighbor, about 1/2 mile away. When she cooked and the wind was right, the smells were just amazing! Then, I had an Indian market about 1/2 mile the other direction. The owner was a great cook and she would sell her homemade samosas...oh, my goodness! Almost makes me want to visit L.A. again...LOL. She ended up opening TWO restaurants...with her recipes.
 
You can buy Patak's curry pastes. They are authentic. Lots of Indians use them. Then, you will get a good idea of what it's supposed to taste like. You will be able to figure out which ones you like.

The other piece of advice I would give, is if you are buying Indian spices, get whole spices, not ground spices. They last practically forever, if you don't grind them until you use them. They can usually be ground in a dedicated coffee grinder or in a Magic Bullet. Sometimes, especially for smaller amounts, I grind them using a mortar and pestle.
 
I make my own garam masala. Mixture of spices. Most Indian women make their own blend.
I cook pretty good indian food that is requested by family and friends all the time.
Dry roasting spices is an amazing smell that fills my kitchen regularly.
PM me if you need more help.

Russ
 
You can buy Patak's curry pastes. They are authentic. Lots of Indians use them. Then, you will get a good idea of what it's supposed to taste like. You will be able to figure out which ones you like.

The other piece of advice I would give, is if you are buying Indian spices, get whole spices, not ground spices. They last practically forever, if you don't grind them until you use them. They can usually be ground in a dedicated coffee grinder or in a Magic Bullet. Sometimes, especially for smaller amounts, I grind them using a mortar and pestle.
What do you use Pataks curry paste for?
 
What do you use Pataks curry paste for?
I think Patak’s is the starting place for me and quite possibly all I will ever need.

Take a look at a few of the recipes.

 
Almost anything you want in a curry. Chicken, fish, etc. Why don't you visit their Web site where they have some recipes and ideas. That should be a tremendous help.
Pataks curry Paste


so busy typing - Aunt Bea, didn't even see you had posted
 

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