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Essential Indian spices

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For Christmas, I'm planning on buying my father a decent selection of Indian spices. He loves to cook Indian, but his spices are stale, to say the least. What spices would be considered essentials? Also - are there any that are nice to have but not absolutely necessary?

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Here's my take.

Essential spices would include:

Cumin, coriander, green cardamom, turmeric, black mustard seeds, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, black pepper, fenugreek, cloves. (Also ginger, but it usually has to be fresh, not powdered.)

Nice to have: Asafoetida, curry leaves (again, those are best bought fresh but unlike ginger, take well to freezing - and I find them essential for many southern Indian dishes, but your taste may vary), white poppy seeds, yellow mustard seeds, black cardamom.

You may get more response to your question in the India and Indian Cuisine forum, however.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Here's my take.

Essential spices would include:

Cumin, coriander, green cardamom, turmeric, black mustard seeds, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, black pepper, fenugreek, cloves. (Also ginger, but it usually has to be fresh, not powdered.)

Nice to have: Asafoetida, curry leaves (again, those are best bought fresh but unlike ginger, take well to freezing - and I find them essential for many southern Indian dishes, but your taste may vary), white poppy seeds, yellow mustard seeds, black cardamom.

You may get more response to your question in the India and Indian Cuisine forum, however.

Thanks for your input on the spices.

I'm always a little confused by the cooking vs. regional boards. I think cooking's cooking, no matter where you are or what you're making. If I were on my way to New Delhi, though, I'd certainly check in on that board to find out where to eat. I'll post this there now, though. Thanks for the advice.

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I'm always a little confused by the cooking vs. regional boards. I think cooking's cooking, no matter where you are or what you're making.

Naturally, and your question was certainly appropriate here. It's just that more specialists in Indian cuisine (including professional Indian restaurant chefs, etc.) frequent the India and Indian Cuisine board.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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I'm always a little confused by the cooking vs. regional boards. I think cooking's cooking, no matter where you are or what you're making.

Naturally, and your question was certainly appropriate here. It's just that more specialists in Indian cuisine (including professional Indian restaurant chefs, etc.) frequent the India and Indian Cuisine board.

Right...and I do appreciate the input. I'm easily confused.

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Don't feel bad. I was confused for a while myself.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Savir - where are you?????????


Stop Family Violence

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Suvir is really busy with his restaurant. It's my impression that since he opened Amma, he has posted to the threads about his restaurant, but almost nowhere else.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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I would suggest including some cans of coconut milk with the spices. And maybe a jar of ghee.


"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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Yeah, some kind of coconut is needed for various recipes, though mostly those from the southern and middle parts of India's coastlines (a lot of the Keralese recipes I've looked at use coconut milk, for example). For some recipes, dried shredded coconut reconsituted with boiling water is sufficient. For others, you may need coconut cream or canned coconut milk. Anyone buying canned coconut milk needs to be careful to avoid cans with added sugar or appreciable amounts of added water, however.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Chaudoc brand is my current standard for canned coconut milk. It comes recommended by several Thai chefs. Also, if you let it sit and don't shake it, you can dip the coconut cream off the top after you open it. I get it at my Asian market for about 60 cents a can. There are big differences in brands of coconut milk.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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well basics for my second generation indo-american kitchen include ground turmeric, chili, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, asoefetida, whole cumin, cinnamon sticks, dried curry leaf, and dried bay leaf. fresh ingredients include garlic, onion, tomato and cilantro. I keep a poly bag of grated coconut in the freezer, alongside a knob of ginger.

when i need ghee i make it - much easier that way, as i've found at least to my tastes most commercial ghees have a funky smell and taste to them.

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I would also include a jar of tamarind concentrate, a few jars of relish and chutney such as lime pickle and mango chutney, and if your budget allows, a coffee grinder for grinding the spices, some packages papadum, and maybe a good cookbook.

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To the list of basics I would also add Cinnamon sticks, mace, saffron and dried chillies.

If you really want to extend his range then to that I would add Amchoor, Panch Poran mix, Chat masala (I know you can make these yourself, but the preprepared stuff is easier, and sometimes better!) and ajwain seeds.

Could also add a range of dried dals (Some of which are used almost as a spice - so not cheating!), gram flour and chapati flour


I love animals.

They are delicious.

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I would also include a jar of tamarind concentrate, a few jars of relish and chutney such as lime pickle and mango chutney, and if your budget allows, a coffee grinder for grinding the spices, some packages papadum, and maybe a good cookbook.

ooh yeah - i thought i'd added tamarind to my list, but i guess not - definitely a little jar of tamco.

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I agree with the recommendations for amchoor powder, which is a really excellent and useful ingredient. I love ajwain seeds, but no-one has yet mentioned kalonji (nigella) seeds, which are a truly great taste.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Thanks all! I hadn't checked in to this thread in a few days (sidetracked by work, of all things) and was happy to see such great responses. I'm heading to my favorite Indian grocery tomorrow, I think.

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Nice to have: Asafoetida, curry leaves (again, those are best bought fresh but unlike ginger, take well to freezing....

Ok, maybe I'm an idiot, but I always keep frozen ginger around. A few days after I buy and use a fresh ginger root, I wrap it in foil, stick it in a ziploc, and put it in the freezer. When I need "fresh" (as opposed to powdered) ginger, I grate the frozen root with microplane. It might not have the kick of truly fresh stuff, but it's certainly better than dried, and better than nothing.

FWIW, I've also planted a few roots in the backyard so I could have a constant and cheap supply of fresh ginger. They've always rotted, though.


amanda

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For Christmas, I'm planning on buying my father a decent selection of Indian spices. He loves to cook Indian, but his spices are stale, to say the least. What spices would be considered essentials? Also - are there any that are nice to have but not absolutely necessary?

How's about including a paneer recipe? Not a tangible thing, but still good to have. It's really not hard to make.


amanda

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