Once you have all the basic ingredients and are comfortable using them in your favorite recipes try getting the following ingredients to make other intricate recipes that call for the ingredients below.
Add these spices and ingredients as you get familiar with Indian Cooking. These ingredients are not needed as frequently, but many Indian vegetarian dishes make use of black mustard seeds, asafoetida and more.
Black mustard seeds or Mohri These are tiny round reddish brown to black colored seeds. They are commonly used in Indian cooking. They are used whole or broken to pieces or made into a paste or even in powdered form. Its paste has a very pungent taste. In India, mustard seeds is commonly used to flavor vegetables, pulses and pickles while tempering (Tadka). In north India, mustard plant leaves are used as a vegetable (Sarsoon).
Asafoetida or Hing It is the dried gum resin of an east Indian plant. It has a strong odor and the flavor is a little like "spicy garlic". Do not attempt to taste it raw, not a pleasant experience! Although do not be afraid to try using it in the recommended recipe. Usually just a pinch is used for cooking mainly fish, vegetables and making "Indian pickles". It is available in a yellow powdered form. Look for "Vandevi Hing" TM (as shown here) in an ethnic grocery store or on-line.
Imli : Tamarind is used mainly to add a sour taste to
many Indian curries. Ready made tamarind paste concentrates are
available in Indian grocery stores. One brand comes in a short plastic
jar with red plastic lid and has the picture of a tamarind fruit on
the outside. Another comes in a small glass jar with white lid.
Fresh mint leaves or Pudina : Although there are many varieties, the common, round-leafed mint or peppermint leaf is the one most often used in cooking. It adds flavor to many curries, and mint chutney is a favorite accompaniment to a special rice dish called "Biryani" and a great dipping sauce for "samosa".
Curry Leaves or Kaddipatta (used in South India) Sold dried, they are as important to curries as bay leaves are to stews, but never try to substitute one for the other. The tree is native to Asia, the leaves are small and very shiny, and though they keep their flavor well when dried they are found in such abundance in Asia that they are generally used fresh.
The leaves are
fried in oil, until crisp, at the start of preparing a curry; they can
also be pulverized in a blender; and the powdered leaves can be used
in marinades and omelettes.
Coconut or Narial (fresh grated or desiccated) The flesh is grated and used not only as a garnish but in many Indian sweets and many curies. Sweet coconut water is a very refreshing natural drink. The dried coconut is grated and ground into many "masalas" or also used in pieces and in savory dishes. Out here in the US look for UNSWEETENED dry grated coconut. Add just enough water so that the dry coconut is covered with water. Use as directed in the recipe instead of freshly grated coconut. Making chutneys will be a breeze.
Basmati Rice – a long-grain aromatic rice grown only in the foothills of northern India that is indispensable for Indian rice dishes.
A very special variety of Indian rice that has long grains and a distinctive nutty flavor. It is specially used when making Biryanis and Pulaos. The aroma fills the house when cooked plain with a little salt for flavor. It should be soaked in cold water for a few minutes before use. Basmati is widely available and you can even find it in major warehouse stores.
The best Basmati rice in the world is cultivated in the fertile soil and lush green paddy fields in the heart of Pakistan - Punjab irrigated by the river Indus, originating from the melting snow of the Himalayas making Punjab's Basmati rice the most natural and flavorful.
Ghee - is clarified butter and is widely used in Indian preparations. This cooking fat is made by reheating pure, unsalted butter or whipped full-cream natural yogurt until the clear fat separates from the residual sediment. Ghee is made best on medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes until it is clear. It is then strained and stored for future use. It adds a lot of flavor to the recipe when used. Ghee is mostly used in sautéing and less commonly for deep-frying. It is very high in saturated fat, therefore should be used sparingly. It is available in Indian grocery stores in a bottle as shown above.
Coconut Milk : Gone are the days when coconut milk had to be prepared using the fresh coconut as nowadays the above ready made milk or extract is easily available in regular grocery stores. Look for it in the Asian section of any US grocery store. In many Asian stores and Indian stores coconut powder is also available as seen above.
Fennel seeds or Saunf :These light green oval shaped seeds have been known to posses digestive qualities. In India, they are roasted, sometimes lightly coated with sugar and eaten after meals as a mouth freshener and to stimulate digestion. They are also recommended for nursing mothers, as they have been known to increase the milk supply. Used successfully in many curries and "indian pickles". Today you will find sugar coated "green supari" mixtures containing "saunf" in Indian Grocery stores. Try it!
Methi seeds. These small, flat, squarish, brownish-beige seeds are
essential in curries, but because they have a slightly bitter flavor they must be used in the stated quantities. They are especially good
in fish curries, where the whole seeds are gently fried at the start of
cooking; they are also ground and added to curry powders; The green
leaves are used in Indian cooking and, when spiced, the bitter taste
is quite piquant and acceptable. The plant is easy to grow.
Nutmeg or Jaiphal is usually used in its powdered form. Grated freshly, using the whole or half nutmeg with a very fine grater. Many times it is used in flavoring Indian sweets. But it may be used in savory dishes as it is used in the making of some Garam Masalas. It is recommended for insomnia, irritability and nervousness.
Sesame Seeds or Til : Sesame seeds are used in many masalas or are used to flavor the recipe by giving a "tadka" with the seeds. It is also used in some chutneys.
NEXT COMMING UP : Get ready to learn some COMMON INDIAN COOKING METHODS. Knowing these you will be able to understand how to prepare for and cook Indian food easily.