The Spices

                Asafoetida - Hing

Asafoetida is a natural flavour enhancer, mainly used in south india. It has a very pungent smell in its pure form, hence it is advisable to store away from other spices in an air tight container. Dried and ground asafoetida is easy to use and popular in vegetarian dishes, especially for those people who do not eat onions, garlic etc.


Indian bay leaf has a similar taste to the Cassia bark/cinnamon, but is slightly more subtle in its flavour. Do not confuse these with the European bay leaf, as the Indian bay has 3 spines running down the centre of the leaf, whereas the European leaf only has one central spine.

Bay leaves [indian] – Tej Patta


Cardamom pods [green] –                   Hari Elaichi

Green cardamom is very versatile in a range of recipes and drinks. This has a very unique taste and fragrance and is used commonly as a mouth and breath freshner. Always keep the seeds in the pods, as once the pods have broken, the seeds will lose their flavour rapidly.


Black cardamom pods are larger than their green relative. They’re generally smokier and pungent but their flavour is not bitter. 

Cardamon pods [black] - Kala Elaichi


   Carom - Ajwain

 Ajwain is also known as ajowan caraway. Its fruits, which are usually mistaken for seeds, resemble cumin and caraway. It has a bitter pungent flavour, similar to anise and its smell is very similar to thyme. This can be a very overpowering ingredient so use it sparingly.


Cassia is a relative of cinnamon and is also known as Chinese cinnamon - it has a similar taste but a more savoury flavour. It is extremely robust and is great to use in cooking main-dish curries. It is a rugged looking bark often used in biriyani dishes and rice.

     Cassia Bark - Dalchini


Chilli – Mirch/mirchi

Hari = Green

Laal = Red

Chillies are now standard in Indian food. The most common is the birds eye chilli in red and green varieties. Green chillies can be used whole, chopped or sliced. Red chillies are mostly dried and ground, but can also come whole or crushed. The Birds Eye variety tend to be small and quite hot. The flavour in these chillies can change depending on how they are cooked.


Cloves are the dried flower-buds of a tropical tree and are a well known ingredient in sweet dishes. Many curry and rice dishes use whole cloves and they are often used in the making of garam masala.

Cloves - Laung


Coriander seeds - Dhaniya

Coriander is the dried ripe fruit known commonly as seeds. These have a lemony, citrus flavour when crushed. Roasting these heightens the flavour intensity. It is described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavoured.


Cumin is the seed of the plant Cuminum cyminum. In India, it has been used for millennia as a traditional ingredient of innumerable kormas, masalas, and soups, and forms the basis of many other spice blends. It has a natural heat and warm flavour, used universally in Asian and South American dishes.

Cumin seeds - Jeera


Curry leaf – Karipatta


Curry tree leaves are often used in curries. The leaves are generally called by the name 'curry leaves,' although they literally translate as 'sweet neem leaves' in most Indian languages. These are usually bruised and fried at the beginning of the cooking process, yet the taste is very much a background supporting flavour of sweet citrus.

Fennel is widely cultivated, both in its native range and elsewhere. It is known for its edible, strongly flavored leaves and fruits. Its aniseed flavor comes from an aromatic compound also found in anise and star anise, and its taste and aroma are similar though usually not as strong. It’s used in pickles as well as cooking.

Fennel seeds - Saunf


Fenugreek seeds - Methi

Fenugreek seeds are commonly used in pickles and in curry powder. It is fenugreek seeds which give curry powder its distinctive aroma. Light roasting reduces the bitterness and enhances flavour.


‘Garam’ means hot/warm and ‘Masala’ means mix or blend.

This is usually the basis for nearly every dish. No two recipes are the same for garam masala, due to the use of different spices as well as the  differing quantities of ingredients. Most will be made from peppercorn, cloves, cassia bark, cardamom, cumin and coriander seeds.

Garam Masala


Kashmir Chilli – Kashmiri Mirch

Kashmiri Mirch, is a much weaker chilli than the regular powdered hot chilli, in terms of heat. It is mainly used for its subtle flavour and its vibrant red colour that is so well known in tandoori dishes.


Amchoor, also referred to as mango powder, is a fruity spice powder made from dried unripe green mangoes and is used as a citrusy seasoning. It’s an amazing seasoner for savoury dishes and proves an excellent alternative souring agent.

Mango powder - Amchoor


       Mustard seeds - Rai

Brown mustard seeds have a very pungent taste. Also known as black mustard seeds, they are in fact dark yellow in colour and possess a natural heat when bitten. They are mostly used in Dijon and English mustard, wheras white seeds are pale yellow and used in American mustard.


Kalonji are black, tear-drop shaped seeds of the caraway family and are commonly seen sprinkled over naan bread. These are known as ‘onion seeds’ but are actually from the plant Nigella sativa.

They are used as a substitute for pepper and have a warm peppery onion flavour.

   Nigella seeds - Kalonji


Nutmeg – Jaiphal 

Mace - Javitri

Nutmeg is the seed of the actual  tree and is almost egg-shaped, while mace is the dried ‘lacy’ reddish covering of the seed.

Nutmeg and mace have similar qualities, with nutmeg having a slightly sweeter flavour while mace has a more delicate taste. Mace is often preferred in light dishes for the bright orange colour it imparts. Nutmeg is used for flavouring many dishes, usually in ground or grated form, and is best grated fresh in a nutmeg grater.


Peppercorns are the fruit of a vine native to India and are highly aromatic if used freshly ground in a pepper mill. Black peppercorns come from dried green peppercorns. Prior to the introduction of chillies, pepper was the predominant ingredient used for heat.

Peppercorns [black] – Kali Mirch


Peppercorns [white] – Safed Mirch

White pepper consists exclusively of the pepper plant seed with the darker-colour skin of the pepper fruit removed. Fully ripe red pepper berries are soaked in water for about a week, during which the flesh of the pepper softens and decomposes, leaving just the seed.


The gold of the spice world, Saffron's aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet. Saffron also contributes a luminous yellow-orange colouring to foods. For the most part, it is difficult to label the flavor of saffron, since its complexity is experienced by everyone a little differently.

           Saffron – Kesur


          Sesame seed - Til

Sesame seeds are used in both sweet and savoury dishes. These seeds are ivory in colour and have a strong nutty flavour. They’re commonly seen on the streets of India as a snack rolled in palm sugar, similar to sesame snaps or peanut brittle. Seeds can be used whole as a garnish or ground to a paste to add in to the dish.


Star Anise is the star shaped pericarp of the Illicium Verum tree, which is harvested just before ripening. It has a similar taste as anise and is a good and cheaper substitute. It’s great for enhancing meat flavours and is widely used across India in masalas.

Star Anise – Chakra Phool


          Turmeric – Haldi

Turmeric is a root, related to the ginger family giving a distinctly earthy, slightly bitter, slightly hot peppery flavor and a mustardy smell. When it is not used fresh the root is dried and ground. Tumeric has strong medicinal properties and is one of the most widely used spices in savoury dishes as well as a few desserts.

If you have fresh turmeric, treat it as you would ginger.