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Five Authentic Indian Spices Essential to Indian Food

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Indian cuisine as we see today is the result of the influence of various cultures interacting with our subcontinent. We have been heavily influenced by the British, Mughal and Portuguese rule in terms of cuisine. Our country is extremely diverse in terms of culture and geography. The spices used also vary from north to south and east to west.

Turmeric Powder It has been an integral part of Indian cooking for centuries. It gives the dish its yellow color. It has and a slight pungent flavor which resembles that of an orange and ginger. But it has many medicinal benefits too. The main ingredient in turmeric is curcumin (3% by weight )which is a very strong anti oxidant and has anti inflammatory properties. Curcumin also protects the heart from many diseases. Some studies also show that it can help prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and aging. It is also a very strong antiseptic. Often used in its powdered form, it imparts a mellow, warm flavor to the flavorful Indian dishes.

Cumin One of the most popular spices used in North India, Cumin or Jeera as it is popularly known is extensively used in vegetarian cooking both in its whole or powdered form. It has a beautiful aroma and imparts a slight spicy and warm flavor to the dishes. One cannot imagine a north Indian vegetarian dish without jeera. The whole cumin is usually fried in oil or ghee or lightly roasted in a pan before other ingredients are added. This helps in releasing its full aroma. This is an essential ingredient for tempering in North Indian vegetarian cooking. This humble spice has amazing healing properties and is excellent for skin and hair.

Coriander Our very own dhania is also known as cilantro worldwide. It is used in the form of whole seeds or powder. The fresh green leaves are often chopped and used for garnishing the finished dishes. The fresh coriander leaves tend to lose their flavor when exposed to heat so they are generally just added before serving as a garnishing agent. The coriander leaves have a different taste as compared to the seeds. The seeds have a citrus and warm flavor. Unlike jeera, they are used mostly in the powdered form. Roasting or frying the seeds increases their pungent aroma. In Ayurveda, they are used to aid digestive ailments.

Garam Masala This is a perfect blend of distinct Indian spices. It is a mix of cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, coriander and black pepper in their powdered form. It is generally added in small quantity at the end of cooking as against frying them initially in oil or ghee. It is a traditional ingredient in most of the Indian Vegetarian dishes. Its best to buy the ingredients separately, exposing them to bright sunlight and then grinding them in a mortar & pestle or mixer grinder. The black pepper in garam masala enhances the absorption of turmeric in the body. All the spices have their own benefits and when used together, they create a perfect balance.

Chilli Powder They are most commonly used in their powdered form and impart spiciness and a distinct red color to the dish. The Kashmiri mirch powder is used for color more than its hot taste.

The above five are the main ingredients for a healthy, flavorful and aromatic Indian vegetarian cooking. What are you waiting for? Start cooking!!!

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