Indian Spices: Exotic Tastes, Amazing Benefits
‘Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food’
When Hippocrates said these words 2500 years ago, he could have been talking of Indian food and its bonanza of healing and nourishing spices.
Spices and Indian cuisine are near synonymous. Think Indian food and the aroma of exotic spices (or masala as called in Hindi) wafts in almost imperceptibly. A spoonful of a nicely spiced Indian dish and subtle flavours explode deliciously in the mouth leaving the eater someplace inside the gourmet paradise. Indian cuisine uses spices both whole as well as powdered. The powdered spices are often blended in ‘top family secret’ proportions to create masala blends.
While the world knows that Indian cuisine is renowned for its precise and painstaking usage of spices, do you also know that spices are included in Indian foods not only for their flavour and aroma, but for their amazing health benefits as well?
Spices are actually nature’s very own pharmacy. Rich in aromatic compounds that are chock-a-bloc with medicinal properties, every spice has its unique and plentiful benefits. So when you have Indian food, you are actually taking in loads of healthy goodness as well!
Here’s a look at some key Indian spices and their multiple health benefits:
- Red Chillies (lal mirchi) – Used both whole and powdered, it has a fiery-piquant flavor that adds depth to our dishes. A powerful detoxifier and metabolism booster, it is used in virtually all savoury Indian dishes on our menu. Whole red chillies are also used as part of tempering in dosa fillings, sambhar and dal. Chillies are rich in Vitamins A and B6 and also aid better absorption of Vitamin C.
- Turmeric (haldi) – Antioxidant-rich turmeric is a great immunity booster. It kills cancer cells, reduces joint inflammation and pain, protects heart from arterial deposits and liver from alcohol damage. It also cures cough and colds and if these benefits aren’t enough for you; is a powerful antiseptic as well. In Indian cuisine, turmeric is used in cooking almost all vegetables, curries and lentils on our menu.
- Ginger (adrak, sonth) – A close cousin of turmeric in immunity boosting health benefits, ginger is used both fresh (adrak) and as dried powder (sonth) in Indian foods. Ginger is anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and excellent for promoting healthy digestion and reducing flatulence and nausea. As ginger is a key base ingredient for all curries, it is present in most of our dishes.
- Cumin (jeera) – This thin spindly spice controls blood sugar, cures anaemia and is absolutely marvellous as a digestive aid; cumin is the first ingredient that’s added to hot oil or clarified butter for tempering most savoury dishes. It is also dry roasted, ground and sprinkled over yoghurt dishes like raita and dahi bara. Naturally, most we use cumin abundantly in our dishes.
- Asafoetida (heeng) – An extremely pungent aromatic spice derived from a plant sap that’s unique to Indian cuisine. Added in minute quantities to cooking food, it still manages to leave a deep signature flavour in the dish. Asafoetida aids digestion, relieves flatulence, opens respiratory pathway, lowers blood sugar and blood pressure and if that’s not enough for you, it also cures male impotence and is an excellent aphrodisiac. Almost every pickle and all savoury dishes on our menu have asafoetida in it.
- Nutmeg (Jaiphal)- A great anti-depressant and a mood lifter, nutmeg cures blues and brings sound sleep. It is also believed to ease joint pains and relieve headaches. Like asafoetida, nutmeg too is used in limited quantities. All marinades, curries and many desserts on our menu feature nutmeg as part of the spice package.
- Mace (Javitri) – Though a totally separate spice, mace is actually the dried aril that surrounds the nutmeg kernel in a nutmeg pod. Its vitamin and mineral content is actually much higher than that of nutmeg. It is also strongly anti-fungal, anti-depressive and aphrodisiac. Mace is a key ingredient of all meat preparations.
- Black Pepper (kali mirch) – Used both whole and powdered, black pepper is a powerful blood purifier, anti-oxidant and digestion booster. It also cures cough, cold and fever, and brings relief in more serious ailments like malaria and epilepsy. Again, there is hardly any savoury dish on our menu that doesn’t get a sprinkle of black pepper.
- Green Cardamom (chhoti ilaichi) – A sweetly fragrant spice that Indians not just put into their meals but often chew after meals as well, the cardamom is antiseptic, carminative, digestive, diuretic and aphrodisiac in nature. It is omnipresent in almost every Indian dessert on our menu – kulfi, gajar halwa or gulab jamun. It is also a signature spice in biryanis and pulaos.
- Coriander (dhania) – Used both whole and powdered, coriander lowers cholesterol, eases constipation, boosts blood production and circulation and is rich in trace minerals and Vitamin B and C. Coriander is another omnipresent spice and used liberally in most dry vegetables, curries and marinades on our menu.
- Fenugreek seeds (methidana) – A bitter and pungent spice, fenugreek seeds are excellent for blood sugar control, digestion, skin and heart. In India, lactating women are given fenugreek seeds in various dishes to boost milk production. We use fenugreek seeds in many of our sweet-sour dishes.
- Cloves (laung) – A spice that’s used in both sweet and savoury preparations, cloves are excellent detoxifiers, respiratory stimulants, anti-inflammation, digestives and aphrodisiac. Used in small quantities, cloves are used either whole or ground as part of a masala.
- Saffron (kesar) – The veritable king of spices, the saffron is prized for its sweetly rich flavor and signature colour. It is also a powerful antiseptic, anti-depressive and aphrodisiac. Saffron features prominently in our kashmiri dishes, rice preparations and desserts.
If till now you have been frequenting Tandoori Flames for the sumptuous dishes we serve, here’s another and equally worthy reason – your health. The food we serve is not just delicious; it is also full of healthy goodness of quality spices.