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What spices you use from where?

One of the things I’ve noticed is some spices are definitely not in regular US grocery stores, but also may be rather overpriced on Amazon (due to built in ship cost for prime), with potentially questionable quality.

What I’m curious about is:

What are your core spices?
How are they prepared? (Roasted, whole, fresh, etc)
Where do you source them?
What blends or spice preparations do you make?
What are your must have exotics? (Lesser quantity used)

12 thoughts on “What spices you use from where?

  1. The only thing I ever have any trouble finding is black cardamom, but I use it so infrequently that I usually don’t buy it unless I’m making my own garam masala, and usually I’ll just buy a box of that and use it over a couple of months.

    I prefer to grow my own coriander, since it’s the same plant as cilantro, and I plant too much, anyways. Same with a few varieties of hot peppers, which I can dry and grind into powders of wveral degrees of “hotness”.

    The only thing I have trouble finding sometimes is asafoetida. I like to have the “cheap” yellow kind as well as the good stuff around, depending on what, when, and who I use it for.

    I don’t care for mail order, unless it’s something special, like raw asafoetida, but the last time I ordered it for mail delivery, the police opened my package thinking it was drugs or something. If I travel, I’ll stop in stores here and there to see what i can pick up.

  2. If at all possible in your area, try an Indian grocery. We have a great one in my city and it’s exclusively where I buy spices, dry beans and legumes, and lots of fresh produce (ginger, curry leaves, etc).

    My go-to spices are cumin, turmeric, red chili powder, whole coriander (I like to grind it myself. It smells awesome!), garam masala, chana masala, and chaat masala.

    Right now I’m making my own chaat masala and chai masala (I love chai tea. Also it’s great in other stuff). Eventually I’ll make garam and chana masalas as well. I have a little hand grinder (a red rooster coffee grinder) that I use.

    I’ve been able to get some fun less-typical spices at the Indian grocery too. Ajwain is one of my favorites. I also love asafoetida, black cardamom, black salt, and amla (Indian gooseberries).

    One of my favorite thing about Indian cuisine is that there are soooo many spices and ingredients to try. I always find something new when I go shopping 🙂

  3. Same as everyone else has said, but since I was a kid I’ve had a real addiction to fennel seeds. I just eat them raw by themselves. No idea why but they’re just so yummy

  4. Hi!
    From your question I get a feeling that you love Indian food, but are a bit overwhelmed with all the spices that go into making an Indian dish. It is quite natural to get confused by the number of ingredients that into most popular Indian dishes.

    My few tips for you:
    1) Try to start with recipes which have not more than 7-9 ingredients in the dish, including spices.

    2) If you find it difficult to source specific spices for making a particular dish then start with those you have in your kitchen and already used before.

    3) Amazon has some great local online spice stores, if you search for them. They may be expensive but trust me that the quality is absolutely amazing. It helps in enhancing the flavour of your dish much better than the spices packed and sold in bulk.

    4) You can go for popular Indian brands such as rajah spices, TRS or MDH which have been exporting and selling spices abroad for years now. They too sell from amazon and are relatively cheaper than local spice brands.

    5) Buy spices in small quantity and preferably in a bottle, tin or zip pack so that they the freshness remains.

    6) My suggestion is to start with 5 essential spices. They are the most commonly used spices in Indian food. They are Cumin seeds, coriander seeds, Cumin powder, Coriander powder and turmeric. Perhaps this little article may help you in why I consider them the core spices.

    7) Here is a list of the most commonly used spices in Indian cuisine which you can use.

    8) The most popular Indian spice blends are Garam Masala, Roasted cumin and coriander powder blend, Chat masala, panch phoron ( a mix of 5 whole seeded spice like cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds and fennel seeds)

    Hope this helps!

  5. I’ve found a couple of sources. One is my local Wegman’s supermarket. They have a small but passable Indian aisle. The other is a couple of Indian groceries. When I first started learning Indian cooking, I never thought I could possibly go through the amount of spices and dals that came in the size bags I found.

    Well, the Mother of All Jokes is that I’m on my second and third bags. I started my collection of spices, curries (simmer sauces and pastes, until I began making my own), dals, etc. @ Wegman’s. I still get the basics there because the Indian groceries are a bit far to keep running to daily or even weekly.

    What I keep on hand, which I add to as I’ve tried new recipes. My next additions will be amchoor and hing:

    * Turmeric.
    * Red chili powder.
    * Garam masala.
    * Cardamom (green, powder and whole).
    * Methi (fenugreek) seeds.
    * Mustard seeds.
    * Whole chilies, red and green.
    * Garlic and ginger, fresh and pastes.
    * Cumin, powder and whole.
    * Coriander, powder and whole.
    * Black peppercorns.
    * Curry leaves. The freeze beautifully.
    * Various chutneys.
    * Various dals: toor, masoor, urad, chana, chole.

  6. I buy almost everything from my local Indian grocery. Any medium sized or larger town in the US probably has an Indian grocery within driving distance. I have bought mail order from Indian groceries as well, but those orders were bulk items (20 lb bags of basmati and dals, canned goods), not many spices.

    If you can find a good Indian grocery, it’s a one-stop shopping place. Every conceivable Indian spice is available, plus fresh Indian veggies not seen in regular groceries, high quality frozen naan and tandoori roti, and Indian desserts. Also, stuff like Indian teas, pickles and chutneys, even Amul cheese or any other popular brands from India.

    And their prices on spices, rice, dals can’t be beat. They sell spices in one pound packs for about the same as a two ounce container of McCormick’s or other American brands.

  7. Core spices are cumin seed/powder, coriander seed/powder, turmeric powder, mustard seed, green cardamom, black peppercorns, whole chillis.

    Occasional ones are ajwain seed, fenugreek seed, black cardamom, asafoetida.

    I always buy from a local market (I’m lucky enough to be within driving distance of several).

    I typically make garam masala, goda masala, rasam powder, and sambar powder.

  8. When I lived in a larger city I went to Indian grocery stores. Now I live in a small town so I must buy some spices online. For example, I’ve recently purchased dried fenugreek leaves, fresh curry leaves, whole coriander, and garam masala from Amazon. I am able to buy whole cumin, chilli powder, and turmeric from my grocery store. Occasionally I will drive to the nearby city to buy more spices from Whole Foods or Indian grocers. My go-tos are garam masala, coriander, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, fennel, and black mustard seed.

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