Asafoetida (Ferula assa-foetida), alternative spelling asafetida, (also known as devil’s dung, stinking gum, asant, food of the gods, giant fennel, Jowani badian, heeng(in Hindi) and ting) is the dried latex (gum oleoresin) exuded from the living underground rhizome or tap root of several species of Ferula, which is a perennial herb (1 to 1.5 m … Continue reading
The purpose of this page is to provide useful information about the spices and ingredients used in the recipes of this website to visitors who may not be familiar with them. The task poses many challenges between the easy to find and useful to browse on the one hand, and creating a complete and comprehensive source on the other. This could become a full website on its own. I trust readers will forgive my shortcomings. I also encourage you to send your suggestions for inclusion. Any asian grocery will have these items and shop keepers are usually extremely helpful and willing to answer your questions. Just dont go there on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings when they tend to be busy.
If you have limited space in your pantry and would like to just get the essentials beyond the usual dried herbs, here is the short list to copy on your smart phone and head off to the nearest India or Asian market.
Black Mustard Seeds, Cumin Seeds, Urad Dal, Asafetida, Turmeric powder, Chilli powder, Rasam powder, Sambar powder, Tamarind paste or brick, Light sesame oil, Fenugreek seeds, Toor dal. Some fresh cilantro, green chillies, ginger root and curry leaves will get you through most of the South Indian recipes on this site.
Growing up in South India I first became familiar with the ubiquitous mustard seeds, cumin, urad and hing along with turmeric powder and red chilli powder. I was later introduced, during my all too brief stint in Europe, to delicate aromas of rosemary and thyme, borage, sage, herbs de Provence. In the US I was exposed to Italian and Mexican aromas of oregano and basil as well as poblanos and a new world of hot peppers I had never know existed. Like most expats, I too began to experiment and create combinations in my kitchen, first out of necessity and then curiosity.
I will start here with the main spices and herbs I use and allow the page to grow as it may. As this list grows you may want to use the search box (above Recipes on the top right side) to find what you are looking for.
Chana dal is produced by removing the outer layer of kala chana (black chickpeas) and then splitting the kernel. Although machines can do this, it can also be done at home by soaking the whole chickpeas and removing the loose skins by rubbing them. Dried chickpeas need a long cooking time (1–2 hours) but will … Continue reading
Chili powder (also powdered chili or chile powder) is the dried, pulverized fruit of one or more varieties of chili pepper. It is used as a spice to add pungency or piquancy and flavor to dishes. In American English the name is usually spelled “chili”. In British English the spelling “chilli” (with two “l”s) is … Continue reading
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), also known as cilantro, Chinese parsley or dhania, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. Coriander is native to regions spanning from southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. It is a soft, hairless plant growing to 50 cm tall. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the … Continue reading
Curry leaves are used in many dishes in India and neighbouring countries. Often used in curries, the leaves generally go by the name “curry leaves”, though they are also translated as “sweet neem leaves” in most Indian languages (as opposed to ordinary neem leaves which are bitter). The leaves are highly valued as seasoning in … Continue reading
Chilli is hot and stimulating with very less aroma when eaten. Chilli contains capsaicin, an alkaloid substance which makes chilli hot to taste. Capsaicin is present in chilli seeds and membranes. When chilli powder is swallowed, capsaicin makes the brain to release a neurotransmitter called substance P. This makes brain think that the body is … Continue reading
Fenugreek is an annual plant in the family Fabaceae. The plant has small round leaves, is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop, and is a common ingredient in dishes from the Indian Subcontinent. Fenugreek has three culinary uses: as an herb (dried or fresh leaves), as a spice (seeds), and as a vegetable (fresh leaves, … Continue reading
Ghee is a class of clarified butter that originated in South Asia and is commonly used in South Asian (Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepali, Pakistani, and Iranian) cuisine and ritual. To prepare ghee, butter is melted in a pot over medium heat. The butter begins to melt, forming a white froth on top. It is then simmered, … Continue reading
Ginger or ginger root is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale, consumed as a delicacy, medicine, or spice. It lends its name to its genus and family (Zingiberaceae). Ginger produces a hot, fragrant kitchen spice. Young ginger rhizomes are juicy and fleshy with a very mild taste. They are often pickled in vinegar or … Continue reading
Mustard seeds are the small round seeds of various mustard plants. The seeds are usually about 1 or 2 mm in diameter. Mustard seeds may be colored from yellowish white to black. They are important spices in many regional foods. The seeds come from three different plants: black mustard (Brassica nigra), brown Indian mustard (B. … Continue reading