Thursday, July 8, 2010

Indian Spice Glossary

Mustard Seeds

Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a mustard seed. Although having some of the smallest seeds, the mustard plant grows to a large size.
The seeds are about 1 mm in diameter, and may be colored from yellowish white to black. They are important spices in many regional cuisines. The seeds can come from three different plants: black mustard, brown Indian mustard, and white or yellow. mustard. In the Indian subcontinent they are often used whole, and are quickly fried in oil until they pop to impart a flavor to the oil.
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Asafoetida Powder

Asafoetida (Ferula asafoetida, family Apiaceae) is a resin gum which comes from the dried sap from the stem and roots of the wild fennel genus Ferula. Today, the most commonly available form is compounded asafoetida, a fine powder containing 30% asafoetida resin, along with rice flour and gum arabic. It derives its English and scientific name from the Persian word for resin (asa) and Latin foetida, which refers to its strong sulfurous odor.
This spice is used as a digestive aid, in food as a condiment and in pickles. It has certain medicinal uses: it aids the digestion, and is helpful in cases of asthma and bronchitis.

Tamarind concentrate

Tamarind trees are very common in South India. The fruit pulp is edible and popular.
Fruit: The 3 - 8 inch long, brown, irregularly curved pods are borne in abundance along the new branches. As the pods mature, they fill out somewhat and the juicy, acidulous pulp turns brown or reddish-brown. When fully ripe, the shells are brittle and easily broken. The pulp dehydrates to a sticky paste enclosed by a few coarse stands of fiber. The pods may contain from 1 to 12 large, flat, glossy brown, seeds embedded in the brown, edible pulp. The pulp has a pleasing sweet/sour flavor and is high in both acid and sugar. It is also rich in vitamin B and high in calcium.
Tamarind is available in specialty food stores worldwide in pod form or as a paste or concentrate. Indian stores carry the tamarind paste in 2 size containers. The above picture is the big one.
The tamarind tree is the official plant of Santa Clara, Cuba.
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Sambar powder

Typical ingredients of the sambar powder include roasted lentils, coriander seeds, dried whole red chili, fenugreek seeds, and curry leaves. Regional variations may include versions with mustard seeds, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, or other spices.
This powder is prepared by pan roasting the whole spices and grinding them to a rather coarse powder. There are quite a few brands to choose from I prefer MTR brand.
Sambar is a dish common in south Indian and Sri Lankan cuisines. This powder is used to make sambar.
I use this sambar powder in my vegetables also to add flavor and spice.

Cumin Seed

Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, a member of the parsley family. The flavour of cumin plays a major role in Cuban, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese,Turkish and Indian cuisines.
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You can get a full coconut break it in the middle into half then scrape it with a scraper or cut it into small pieces. Learn how to open a coconut at
In the Indian shops you can get the fresh shredded coconut in the freezer isle. Casts around $2.50 packed by different company. Brand name doesn’t matter. You can store in refrigerator 2-7 days and in the freezer 1-3 months
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Green Beans Fry


1. French Beans (Tender and snipped) 2 lbs
2. Garlic gloves (3)
3. Ginger ( 3 thin slices ) You can use as much as you can handle
4. Sliced almonds 2 or 3 Table spoons
5. Dry Basil leaves


Smash the garlic and ginger in a hand smasher. Heat 3 tsp oil in a heavy pan or skillet, add the smashed ginger and garlic, and fry for 1 minute. Add the green beans and fry over low heat. Add salt as required. Keep it covered until cooked (2 or 3 minutes) Stir frequently and leave it uncovered till all the water dries out.
Add sliced almonds and sprinkle Basil leaves stir and serve hot.
It goes well with Pasta and rice.
Here I have used tender fresh beans.
If you are using regular fresh grocery store green beans, cut the tips and split them into half lengthways so they will cook well in the pan without water.
If you are using frozen green beans, do not cover it. Stir till all the water dries out.


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