Some Unacknowledged Aspects of Cooking with Indian Spices
Often defined as invigorating and gastronomically titillating, Indian cuisine is predominantly identified due its distinct flavor and the typical aroma that is essentially a culmination of several spices. The use of spices (called 'Masalas' in Hindi) in Indian food preparation has been well-documented but the increasing presence of Indian culinary offerings is popularizing the use of spices in commercial and household kitchens across the world. It seems that for most consumers, the realm of spices is largely limited to its culinary significance. However, there is much more to the saga of how Indian spices have carved a niche for themselves and how they have re-invented themselves to become an internationally-admired cooking ingredient.
You are not the only one struggling to get the Spices Right!
First-time users of Indian spices often find it hard to integrate them into their regular dishes. The reason is obvious—the cooking methods that have seeped into the Indian psyche have evolved after years of experimentation and perfecting the art of using of various spices, across an exhaustive range of permutations and combinations to create the desired flavor. Thus, it isn't surprising that the nascent users initially struggle to harmonize the 'spicy' aspect in their conventional form of cooking. Every Indian spice is interpreted and used with various assortments across the Indian mainland itself, making it difficult to create a universal blueprint for how such spices should be handled. Even in the cosmopolitan centers of the Indian subcontinent, it is widely believed that the craft of blending various spices should be followed from authoritative resources, i.e. as a part of recipes passed-on by the family-elders. Even today, many Indian households measure some of the most commonly-used spices by counting the number of 'pinches' that have been dictated to them. It is not a question of challenging or conforming to these culinary customs but a common acknowledgment that restrains folks from arguing such wisdom—spices form the essence of Indian food and hence, enjoy this sacred-like pedestal.