Spice Mixes of the Indian Subcontinent

A Complete Guide

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Writing this section is akin to calling on an old friend, I have long loved the heady aromatic spices associated with India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal and they have proved to be a great inspiration over the years and although I might take leave of these cuisines once in a while the seductive qualities of masalas and other spice mixes always draws me back with open arms.

Indian Spice Mix

There is something about warming whole spices before grinding, filling the kitchen with the aromas of cloves, coriander, cumin, cardamom to name but a very few. The make-up of the spice mix defines the overall taste of the dish; some are very fragrant, almost sweet whilst others highlight the punch of peppercorns and chilli.

One of my favourite cookery methods in Asian food is the tempering of spices to give a dish a final burst of flavour just before serving. Dal’s are particularly good for this, once the lentils have been cooked to your liking, slivers of garlic, curry leaves and cumin seeds are quickly sautéed in hot oil until the aromas have been released. The spices and residue oil are then poured into the dal and served immediately.

Curry powder is undoubtedly the best known spice mix but rarely seen in the Indian Subcontinent, other Asian countries do use curry powder in their recipes but the Indians have their own individual mixes, one for beef, lamb, one for poultry, fish etc. There are many types of curry powder available, sadly advertised by strength for the Western market rather than as aromatic masalas for different dishes.

I include some different curry powder recipes based on country and/or foodstuff, regional masala mixes, spice rubs and pickling spices.

Curry Powder
Salsas and Sambals
How to Temper Spices

Content and picture © Miles Collins