With the growing popularity of international cuisines and cooking shows, our kitchens are increasingly global too. Most pantries around India are well stocked with international ingredients like olive oil & balsamic vinegar, soy sauce & sesame oil, rosemary & thyme, and even za’atar and sumac. As the number of international herbs and spice mixes grows in our kitchen cupboards, we thought we’d take a little walk around our own neighborhoods to see what spice mixes we could find a little closer to home.
While Indian food generally has a few basic spices used across the country, cumin seeds (jeera), mustard seeds (rai), turmeric (haldi) and coriander seeds (dhana), there are interesting variations on the theme to be found in different regions. Here are some of the spice mixes we found being used in homes around the city, all subtly different from each other, imparting seriously interesting flavors to our meals.
Goda (sweet) masala
A Maharashtrian spice mix, this is milder than the standard garam masala. A large quantity is usually ground up all together and then used for the rest of the year. Just about a pinch or a 1/4 teaspoon of the spice mix usually does it in most dishes. Goda masala is used in many dishes, particularly with non-leafy vegetables and in a Maharashtrian dish called Bharli Wangi – eggplants stuffed with a mix of peanuts and fresh coconut.
1/2 kg Coriander seeds, 1/4 cup Cumin seeds, 1 tsp each of Cloves, Black pepper, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Star anise, dagad phool (Patthar ka phool, No English name that we know of), 2 Bay leaves. Roast each ingredient separately in a little oil till it’s very fragrant. Cool and then grind everything together. Experiment away!
Aunty’s special masala
Not a traditional spice mix, this masala is the creation of the absolutely prolific cook, Mrs.Nitu Ghanekar . She says it gives food a slightly Marwari flavor and this spice mix is a go-to masala in her household. She uses it in sabzis like Potato with tomato, or bhindi, bhindi with tomato, Potato with onion, and even a dry sabzi made with big chunks of doodhi (bottle gourd).
3/4 cup Coriander seeds, 3/4 cup Dried red chilis, 1/2 cup Fennel seeds. No roasting required. Just grind everything together, store, and use as required.
This particular spice mix is a favorite with both of us Eatelishs. Panch Phoron, which means 5 spices, is a traditional Bengali spice mix made up of equal parts of Cumin seeds, Mustard seeds, Fennel seeds, Nigella seeds (kalonji) and Fenugreek seeds. These spices aren’t pre-roasted. The spice mix is tempered in hot oil till the seeds pop and are fragrant, and then whatever you’re cooking is tossed in to the pan so this delicious, fragrant spice mix coats everything. Try this spice mix our favorite way, with Bhindi and onions.
Mix together 2 tablespoons of Cumin seeds, Mustard seeds, Fennel seeds, Nigella seeds and Fenugreek seeds and store in a your spice box.
This is a Parsi spice mix used in so many of their dishes including Taraporee Patia, Parsi-style meatballs and of course Dhansak. The name literally translates to Coriander Cumin and the spice mix is made by roasting coriander and cumin seeds and then grinding them. Some Parsis add a little bit of a special fragrant touch, something of a signature, in the form of either a cinnamon stick or a few cloves added to the spice. These additions are optional and the basic mix is super simple to make.
1 cup Coriander seeds, 1/2 cup Cumin seeds. Dry roast the spices till they color slightly and become fragrant. Cool and grind together and store in an air-tight container.
Know of any great spice mixes? Tell us about them! Cooking with new spice mixes is the best way to get yourself out of a cooking rut and we’re always looking out for the new and tasty.