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Mar 24, 2009 11:57 PM

Need help putting together essential spices

I have a very basic spice collection and I don't have easy access to shops that sell spices so when I go to the closest city next week I am planning on buying a few good to have and use spices.

So the question is; which spices should I pick up?

I already have yellow and black mustard sees, cardamon pods, kaffirlime leaves, sweet paprika and turmeric.

is there an unwritten rule about which are the best spices to have on hand which will do in some of the more basic Indian cooking?

Any help is great, thanks

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  1. I don't know about "unwritten rules" but almost every Indian cookbook has a list of spices and ingredients they recommend you have in the pantry.

    For basic Indian cooking you need (in addition to what you have):

    In no particular order:

    1. Cumin seeds
    2. Coriander seeds
    3, Hing
    4. Curry leaves (find them in the refrigerator section of Indian stores, and store a bagful in your freezer; they stay good for ages).
    6. Cinnamon (or cassia, whichever you find).
    7. Cloves
    8. Tamarind
    9. Coconut (fresh, or unsweetened flakes)
    10. Red chili powder (e.g. cayenne)
    11. Dried whole red chillies
    12. Fenugreek seeds
    13. Basic dals
    In many basic dishes (e.g. in Southern Indian homestyle cooking), a teaspoonful of dal (e.g. urad dal, chana dal) is added in the tempering stage as a spice. They give a nutty flavour to the dish. Almost all basic homemade sabzis call for them. So you need: toor dal, urad dal, moong dal, masoor dal, chana dal.

    Many of these spices are used in other cuisines also, so you are not stuck with a large stock of over-specialized ingredients.

    You need a spice grinder (e.g,. a dedicated coffee mill).

    Useful ready made spice mixes. From the above, you can concoct your own, but you may choose to buy some for dishes you make often, to save the hassle

    Some examples:
    1. Garam masala
    2. Sambar powder (if you make sambar)
    3. Chaat masala (or, if you want to make this, you need the real heavy duty souring agents like rock salt, mango powder, pomegranate powder, etc.)
    4. Chana masala or Punjabi chhole masala (again needs pomegranate powder etc.)
    5. Rasam powder (if you make rasam)
    6. Tandoori masala

    and so on.....HTH

    Maybe I've forgotten something ......

    2 Replies
      1. re: BobB

        Yes, saffron!

        I also forgot saunf (fennel seeds) and kalonji (nigella?)

        I'm sure there are other omissions as well .....

    1. Indian: Asafetida, bay, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry leaves, fennel seeds, ginger, nutmeg, paprika, dried chilies, poppyseeds, sesame seeds, tamarind. Not Indian I like having chipotle pwdr around.
      I hope I listed something rasam didn't that is a good list.

      1 Reply