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How to get pungent flavor in spicy dishes

Long time lurker. Finally got the urge to join. I am on a quest to source a flavor which appears in spicy dishes. Mexican, Indian, chili, etc. I can't seem to recreate it. Without being negative, it is very much a flavor similar to body odor. Very bad body odor at that. I am lead to believe it is created by cumin. My cumin is ground and could be stale. Could it be that simple? Would fresh ground cumin from seed be more "pungent"? Or something else altogether? Any thoughts appreciated! Thanks in advance.

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    1. Could be cumin or dried coriander. If you're not doing so
      already, saute the spices in a little oil or butter at the start
      rather than adding them later. Depending on the recipe,
      doing the same with a little tomato paste can also add some
      depth of flavor.

        1. My guess is that either cumin or turmeric.

          1. Yep, has to be cumin. "Body odor" is precisely how I would have described it when I first started learning my spices, but it is absolutely one of my favorites. In Mexican food, the slightly petroleum-ish flavor of Mexican oregano seems to ramp up the pungency for me, and in both Mexican and Indian food so do toasted dried chiles, onions, garlic. Try toasting cumin seeds in a dry frying pan, then grinding them.