What is a Masala Dabba? (Spice Box)
Indian food is incomplete without spices and the Indian kitchen is incomplete without a masala dabba. This box with many compartments is the soul of the kitchen that is searched for as soon as you think of cooking something.
Traditionally, A masala dabba or a spice box is usually a round steel box with at least 6-8 smaller compartments in it. But now you can get spice boxes of various other shapes too such as square, rectangular, and pentagon. Also, such boxes for spices are available today in varied materials such as wood, glass, and many others. Again, there are boxes available in different sizes in terms of the number of compartments in them. You can get a box with a minimum of 4 compartments.
Now when there are so many spices in the kitchen available, the spices in the box depend upon the region you are living in and also the spice preferences your family has.
17 Essential Indian Spices You Need in Your Kitchen
While there can be several spices used in the kitchen, there are some basic and staple ones that almost every household will have. Here is a list of Indian spices that are a must in every Indian kitchen.
Coriander/dhaniya spice is usually used as a whole with its leaves and stems. The seeds of this herb are used as a spice in Indian curries in grounded form.
Cumin seeds are earthly in color and have a strong aroma and flavor. Cumin seeds are a common spice and can be used in almost every possible food item such as in curries, snacks, or even in tarka.
Mustard/Kala Sarso is again a common element used in many Indian kitchens. While mustard seeds are used in preparing various delicacies and tempering, the seeds are pressed to extract mustard oil.
4) Black Pepper
Black pepper is a dried form of a berry and it has got a very strong flavour. It is considered to be the spice king because it is one of the highest traded spices in the world. Black pepper is crushed to use in different dishes to generate heat. Also, black pepper is a substitute for chili for many people.
Cardamom is such a spice that is useful in not just savories but also in desserts. Also, cardamom is very popular in the preparation of various Indian drinks such as tea or thandai.
Cinnamon is a bark of the cinnamon tree and plays a major role in cooking various rice preparations such as biriyani, and pilaf, or to cook heavy curries such as kadai chicken or mutton.
Whether it is a curry or masala tea, cloves are a major participant. Also, cloves are amazing for offering comfort in cough and cold.
8) Nutmeg Mace
The nutmeg tree offers two eminent spices. The fruit is the nutmeg and the cover of the fruit is mace.
This golden spice has vast benefits. Also, it is a major element in most savoury dishes in India. Turmeric is also considered auspicious and is used in many Indian rituals.
10) Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds are similar in appearance to cumin seeds. But fresh fennel seeds are green in color. These seeds are not just a part of cooking but also act great as a mouth freshener.
Apart from the above basic spices, there are many other spices too that are used in different cooking styles. Here is another Indian spices list with names with some more options.
11) Bay Leaves
Bay leaves/tej patta are used as a whole and are mostly used in curries and rice dishes such as pulao and biryani.
12) Red Chilli
Asafetida or strong hing is another essential spice that is used in many dishes across India. Also, hing is very helpful in curing digestion, especially in babies.
14) Carom seeds
Carom seeds/Ajwain are known to have medicinal values such as improving digestion and also they enhance flavors. These are most commonly used in baked items such as kulchas, and even at times in main course dishes.
15) Black Cumin
Black cumin is a major spice used in North Indian kitchens. These seeds are also known to have therapeutic properties.
Fenugreek seeds are yellow-coloured seeds but do not have a round shape like yellow mustard seeds. According to Ayurveda, fenugreek seeds are also great for enhancing taste as well as for the gut.
Saffron is the most expensive spice not just in India but in the world. It is extracted from a rare flower and the extraction process is tiring. It is said that just a few grams of saffron can be extracted from a few kilograms of saffron flowers. Saffron is often used to bring a natural red color and also to flaunt royalty in a dish.
How to Use Indian Spices in Cooking?
Do you think that it is just enough to know the Indian kitchen spices name and you are ready to master the technique of cooking Indian style? Well, here is the secret that lies. Indian-style cooking is not just about what ingredients go in but it is also about how you are cooking the ingredients.
Indian spices can enhance the aroma and flavor of food. But at the same time, when you are not using the spices in the right proportion, it can even destroy the taste. Hence, one should even know how to use Indian spices in cooking.
The Indian spices can be categorized in many sections as some are those that can be used as a whole while some others need to be grounded to use. Also, there are some spices that have to be cooked before other ingredients of the dish, some other spices are such that you need to put them after preparing the dish. It is essential to understand the nature of each spice and use it accordingly. For example, when you are using cloves and cardamom for rice preparations, you need to put them whole. But when you are using these two spices in curries, you will have to grind them.
When you are using spices for curries, it is essential that you cook them well first in oil along with other herbs such as ginger, garlic, and chilli before you put in other elements such as vegetables or meat.
While preparing masala tea, you need to boil spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and cardamon first and then you need to put in tea leaves and milk.
So, there are different rules for different spices. Also, you should be aware of the flavours strongly so that you know the amount of each spice that you need to use in your dish.
How to Store Spices?
Do you think you know all about spices? One of the things that you should not skip is how to store the spices in such a way that they last long. While you may have a dedicated masala dabba for your spices, here are some eminent tips that you should follow to store them in the right way.
- Store them in airtight containers and bring out a small amount of spices in the masala box for everyday use.
- Keep them away from direct sunlight and store them in a cool place.
- Make sure that you do not open the spice containers frequently if you wish to keep them in good essence for a long time.
Do Spices Expire?
While expired spices may not cause any harm to you but such spices will not do any good to you as well. Also when spices expire, they will not bring fragrance and flavor to your food. So, yes, spices do expire. To know whether your spices have expired or not, you will have to take a whiff. If you get the aroma of the spice that you are whiffing, it is fresh, else it has expired.
Usually, when you have grounded the spices or have bought grounded spices, it should last you for about 6 months. So, you should not use any spice that has been there for more than 6 months. But the story is different in the case of whole spices. Whole spices are known to last for as many as 5 years. This is one of the many reasons why many Indian women do not use grounded spices, rather they grind the whole spices as and when required while cooking.
Whether it is the ground or whole spices, when they have expired, they will make your food bland and out of taste sometimes. When such a thing is happening, you should know that it is time to replace your spices.
Sometimes, even fresh spices may not add the flavor that you want. This happens when you are not using quality spices. Zoff brings you high-quality spices along with a proper expiry date so that you know when you can use them.
Take a dive into the world of Zoff spices to come across a wide range of spice options that you require for mastering your cooking skills.
Frequently Asked Questions on India Spices
What are the essential whole spices in India?
There are 7 essential whole spices in India and these are cumin, coriander, turmeric, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, and fenugreek.
What are the 5 spices in a packet?
At Zoff, you can find an assorted range of spice combos, such as the starter chat spices kit containing Amchur powder, roasted jeera powder, pav bhaji masala, pani puri masala and chaat masala, the starter curry spices kit containing shahi paneer masala, sambar masala, kitchen king masala, garam masala and chole masala, and many more.
Where to buy Indian spices?
One of the reliable places where you can buy Indian spices is Zoff. Zoff offers an assurance of a quality product that enhances your food and offers the natural health benefits of these spices.