KNOWING INDIAN CUISINE: HISTORY AND IMPORTANCE OF WHOLE SPICES IN INDIAN FOOD
Indian cuisine reflects an 8,000-year history of various groups and cultures interacting with the Indian subcontinent, leading to a diversity of flavors and regional cuisines found in modern-day India. Later, trade with British and Portuguese influence added to the already diverse Indian cuisine.
To understand Indian cuisine. I must take you to India and its food respectively. India is highly regionally and religiously diverse, full of festivals, foods, and colors. Rich in culture and religion-driven country.
Indian cuisine consist of deep, exotic, rich flavors of spices and aroma of herbs, be it in savory or desserts. Where North Indian cuisine consists of the richness of dairy products, vegetables, and variations and combinations of the extremely strong varied flavor of spices and exotic essence. Example: Palak Paneer, Dal Makhani, Kashmiri Dum Aloo, Mughlai Paratha, Jalebi, and the list will never end. And all of this gets merged with all the colorful vegetables, fruits and some deep process changes as I said "yummy is in process" with mild flavors of herbs and spices of Northeast. Example: Momo's, Gundruk, Sinki, Rasgulla. Similarly, when we move to North West, all the process involves a strong amount of millets, lubricants, and a beautiful combination of spices and their color. To balance the environmental and digestion process in its own beautifully unique way be, it so, Daal Bati, Dhokla, Lassi, Kheer, and Ghewar. As we go down to Central plateaus and South India, food gets even richer in the context of spices essence and process be it Dosa, Idli, Chaat, Pav- Bhaji, Panipuri, Biryani, Aam Ras, Payasam, Masoor park, etc.
Indian food attracts your soul before it touches your taste buds. Spices are an inseparable part of Indian cuisine, varying from one region to another but act as a common thread that binds all together.
For thousands of years, Indians have been using spices in their food that have an exquisite aroma and flavor. Some spices are used for special dishes, and then some spices are vital ingredients for everyday cooking. For instance, Turmeric, Black pepper, and Cumin are Herbs used daily and in every dish, especially in north India. Now they are not just used for the flavor and color that they bring to the dish. There are known benefits associated with these spices. Indian cooking is nothing without the indulgence of such spices that not only enhance the taste but also help to preserve food and have strong medicinal properties and then some Ingredients work as spice and flavor sources in any recipe. The most well-known Indian spices are:
Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several tree species from the Genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon is used mainly as an aromatic condiment and flavoring additive in a wide variety of cuisines, sweet and savory dishes, breakfast cereals, snack foods, teas, and traditional foods.
Coriander is a plant. Both the leaves and fruit (seeds) of Coriander are used as food and medicine. However, the term "Coriander" is typically used to refer to the fruit. Coriander leaves are usually referred to as Cilantro. In the following sections, the term "Coriander" will be used to describe the fruit. it's a staple spice made of dried coriander seed used in many cuisines. Tastes dry flowery and citrusy. Adds aroma and texture to the recipes usually used in combination with other spices.
Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance. Black Cardamom has a distinctly smoky, though not bitter, aroma, with a coolness some consider similar to mint. Both forms of Cardamom are used as flavorings and cooking spices in both food and drink, and as a medicine. Cardamom (Green Cardamom) is used as a spice, as a masticatory, and in medicine; it is also smoked. In Asia, both types of Cardamom are widely used in both sweet and savory dishes, particularly in the south. Both are frequent components in spice mixes, such as Indian and Nepali masalas and Thai curry pastes. Green Cardamom is often used in traditional Indian sweets and masala chai (spiced tea). Both are also often used as a garnish in basmati rice and other dishes. Individual seeds are sometimes chewed and used in much the same way as chewing gum. It is used by confectionery giant Wrigley; its Eclipse Breeze Exotic Mint packaging indicates the product contains "Cardamom to neutralize the toughest breath odors". It is also included in aromatic bitters, gin, and herbal teas.
Cloves are the flower buds of the clove tree, an evergreen also known as Syzygium aromaticum. Found in both whole and ground forms, this versatile spice can be used to season pot roasts, add flavor to hot beverages, and bring spicy warmth to cookies and cakes.
Its seeds each one contained within a fruit, which is dried are used in the cuisines of many cultures in both whole and ground form. Although cumin is thought to have uses in traditional medicine, there is no high-quality evidence that it is safe or effective as a therapeutic agent.
In India, the seeds are powdered and used in different forms like Kashaya (decoction), Arishta (fermented decoction), and Bati (tablet/pills), and processed with Ghee (a semifluid clarified butter). In traditional medicine practices of several countries, dried Cumin Seeds are believed to have medicinal purposes, although there is no scientific evidence for any use as a drug or medicine.
A spice commonly called Star Anise, Star Anise Seed, Star of Anise, Chinese Star Anise, or Badian that closely resembles anise in flavor is obtained from the star-shaped pericarps of the fruit of I. verum which are harvested just before ripening. Star Anise oil is a highly fragrant oil used in cooking, perfumery, soaps, toothpaste, mouthwashes, and skin creams.
Fennel, is a flavorful culinary herb and medicinal plant. Fennel plants are green and white, with feathery leaves and yellow flowers. Both the crunchy bulb and the seeds of the fennel plant have a mild, licorice-like flavor. Yet, the flavor of the seeds is more potent due to their powerful essential oils. Aside from its many culinary uses, fennel and its seeds offer a wide array of health benefits and may provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial effects.
Ajwain's small, oval-shaped, seed-like fruits are pale brown schizocarps, which resemble the seeds of other plants in the family such as Caraway, Cumin, and Fennel. They have a bitter and pungent taste, with a flavor similar to Anise and Oregano. They smell almost exactly like thyme because they also contain thymol, but they are more aromatic and less subtle in taste, as well as being somewhat bitter and pungent. Even a small number of fruits tends to dominate the flavor of a dish. The fruits are rarely eaten raw; they are commonly dry-roasted or fried in Ghee (clarified butter). This allows the spice to develop a more subtle and complex aroma. It is widely used in the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent, often as part of a Chaunk (also called a Tarka), a mixture of spices – sometimes with a little chopped garlic or onion – fried in oil or clarified butter, which is used to flavor a dish at the end of cooking. It is also an important ingredient for herbal medicine practiced there. In Afghanistan, the fruits are sprinkled over bread and biscuits. Other applications of Ajwain include incorporating the seeds in specific types of bread, such as naans and parathas. The seeds can also be used as a mouth freshener when mixed with lemon juice and Black Pepper and then dried. Or, the seeds can simply be used as an ingredient in hot tea.
Black Pepper (Piper Nigrum) is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, known as a peppercorn, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. Ground, dried, and cooked Peppercorns have been used since antiquity, both for flavor and as traditional medicine. Black Pepper is the world's most traded spice and is one of the most common spices added to cuisines around the world. Its spiciness is due to the chemical compound Piperine, which is a different kind of spicy from the capsaicin characteristic of chili peppers. It is ubiquitous in the Western world as a seasoning and is often paired with salt and available on dining tables in shakers or mills.
Asafoetida has a pungent smell, as reflected in its name, lending it the trivial name of "stinking gum". The odor dissipates upon cooking; in cooked dishes, it delivers a smooth flavor reminiscent of leeks or other onion relatives. Asafoetida is also known colloquially as "Devil's Dung" in English (and similar expressions in many other languages). This spice is used as a digestive aid, in food as a condiment, and pickling. It plays a critical flavoring role in South Asian vegetarian cuisine by acting as a savory enhancer. Used along withTurmeric, it is a standard component of lentil curries, such as Dal, Chickpea Curries, and vegetable dishes, especially those based on Potato and Cauliflower. Asafoetida is used in vegetarian Indian cuisine where it enhances the flavor of numerous dishes, where it is quickly heated in hot oil before sprinkling on the food. Kashmiri cuisine also uses it in lamb/mutton dishes such as Rogan Josh. It is sometimes used to harmonize sweet, sour, salty, and spicy components in food. The spice is added to the food at the time of tempering. Sometimes dried and ground Asafoetida (in small quantities) can be mixed with salt and eaten with raw salad.
In its pure form, it is sold in the form of chunks of Resin, small quantities of which are scraped off for use. The odor of the pure resin is so strong that the pungent smell will contaminate other spices stored nearby if it is not stored in an airtight container.
A spice derived from the flower of Crocus Sativus, commonly known as the "Saffron Crocus". The vivid crimson stigma and styles, called Threads, are collected and dried for use mainly as a seasoning and coloring agent in food. Saffron has long been the world's costliest spice by weight. Although some doubts remain on its origin, it is believed that Saffron originated in Iran.
India is a land of flavors, essence, and aroma.
When we Talk about masala (spices) and seasonings there is a varied range of spices in India. To be definite, there are more than 40 Indian spices and many other special spices and seasonings. they enhance the taste, flavors, and colors of the meals of consumers. consisting of a varied range of flavors, textures aromas, and essence.
In short Indian cuisine is a splash and package of varied combinations of highly exotic flavors and essence of spices, herbs, and processes: Derived from deep-rooted ancestral recipes and emotions. Yet not to forget the secret ingredient is always the love and joy of serving.