With their intoxicating spices and mouth watering flavours, Indian curries are enjoyed world over. Unlike western dishes that tend to pair similar flavours together, Indian dishes use several ingredients that do not contain overlapping flavours. Indian spices also have amazing medical benefits due to their antioxidant properties that heal the body. And the awareness of this advantage has drawn immense attention among the young generation thereby increasing spice consumption. Their application into sauces, convenience food, bakery items and more, also divides the market into another section.
Countries like India, consume more ready-to-make options, thus providing a huge market for blended spices. Indian spices are also becoming quite popular in countries like US and UK as they not only make the dish more tasty, but the ingredients, each bring their own unique flavour to the dish, rather than simply blending in. Interestingly, back in the day, these spices were not just used as food-flavouring agents, but in potions, antidotes for poisons, ointments and some were even burnt as incense. Spices are also known to have a positive influence on the digestive processes. Most curries contain turmeric, cumin, cardamon, ginger, chilli and black pepper, all spices with strong anti-bacterial properties.
At present, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are the top three pepper-producing states in India. Black pepper is considered a basic food seasoning in combination with salt, that was interestingly more than just any table side condiment, it was infact considered an exotic trade food in the middle ages. A steaming hot and spicy pepper rasam is the South Indian equivalent of chicken soup and is beyond doubt the perfect recipe when the throat is sore and one feels the onset of flu. However, white pepper finds a better fit in white sauces. It is also widely chosen to prepare cream soups, mashed potatoes, and Thai and Chinese cuisines. Black peppercorn tea, is said to be useful in reducing the mucus in the respiratory system and also aids in reducing fever. Other health benefits include improvements in digestion, appetite, cough, reduces throat inflammation, fever, and much more.
Remember the time you bit into one, while stuffing your face with biryani or kheer, yes you probably identified the not so yum, yet sweet aroma of cardamom. While turmeric imparts deep yellow color to curries, cardamom gives a sweet, almost limey-floral aroma. Why go far, the famous Indian masala chai gets it’s flavor from green cardamom and ginger. So go on and throw some cardamom into your coffee or tea for a fragrant and festive twist. Also because, cardamom comes with it’s medicinal benefits, stabilizing your digestion, combating nausea and motion sickness. Some ginger juice mixed with cardamom, honey, and dash of lime is said to do wonders for nausea. The seed is considered an excellent source of limonene (an antioxidant and used to prevent and treat cancer) chemical typically found in the skin of citrus fruits. Some important cardamom producers in India are Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Whether its soups, stews, sauces, curries, casseroles or dry rubs for meats, chili powder has a significant position in all culinary preparations. It shouldn’t be any surprise that it is easily incorporated into burgers, pizzas and what not. Andhra Pradesh being a major chilli producing state lends this rich, colorful spice a piquant and flavorful taste to any delicacy, precisely why it is widely used in Indian dishes. Just a dash or two of chili powder can kick up the taste of your palate. Apart from the fiery hotness that chilli powder provides, it is also a powerhouse of tremendous medicinal and health benefiting properties. Chilli powder contains sufficient amount of vitamin A & C, acts as an antioxidant, detoxifier, as well as enhances metabolism.
This magic herb is probably the most important dish used in almost all curries and gravy dishes across both north and south regions of India – states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Maharashtra, Assam, Karnataka and Kerala. Not only does it give a rich color and unique flavor to dishes, but quite affordingly underlines the flavour of Indian cuisine, and is an integral part of our life and culture.
As a matter of fact, India happens to be the largest consumer and exporter of turmeric in the world. Turmeric powder is extremely healthy, and is used to cure everything from arthritis and bloating to inflammation and high cholesterol. It works wonders for inflammation – given that is has been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. The herb is also a wonderful source of fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, magnesium, and vitamin C reducing gas and bloating, also know to treat other skin conditions like psoriasis, acne, and eczema. Dropping a piece of turmeric or two in it’s raw form, into your drink every morning can give you a healthy dose of antioxidants and take care of your overall health in the long run. Curcumin in turmeric also helps reduce the serum cholesterol levels, thereby contributing to heart health and in turn activates the genes that enhance the body’s synthesis of antioxidants and thus delays ageing. The nutritional benefits are of course seemingly endless, now we know why it is considered a potent spice.
CUMIN SEEDS/ JEERA
Jeera is without doubt an essential part of almost every Indian kitchen. In India, the largest jeera producers constitute the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan but fellow states won’t back down on it’s consumption making us the largest consumers of the same. On a hot summer day, it’s absolutely satisfying to have a glass of buttermilk with a dash of cumin powder. Added health benefits for jeera to become a part of your diet would include natural remedies like treatment of common cold, the antiseptic properties of cumin can help fight flu, by boosting your immune system. And, so it’s definetly a good idea to include jeera in everyday preparations like parathas, curries, cookies, soups, rice, lentil preparations. Coming to digestion, it’s a common practice in India to find people popping in jeera golis after meals, do you know why? Cumin helps control stomach pain, indigestion, diarrhoea, nausea and morning sickness. But most importantly, jeera is also found to be effective in stimulating menstrual cycle in women. Cumin can be used in the treatment of piles due to its fibre content, anti-fungal, laxative and carminative properties.
So if you’re not a fan of spicy or salty curries yet, think again, you might be depriving your body of some delicious as well as healthy herbs and spices.