5 Ingredients For The Indian Pantry You May Not Have But Should
Image Credit: Photo: Ratul Ghosh

Indian herbs and spices are used in marinades, sauces, soups, pickles, curries and so much more! Here are five herbs and spices that are missing from your pantry. Everyone has heard about bay leaf, coriander, turmeric, cloves, garam masala, fenugreek, red chilli or cardamom at some point, but nowadays most of these herbs and spices are used to leech out their flavour. Mostly, the spices are used to add “the Indian touch”. The masters of Indian cooking know that flavours have to be built in layers. Apart from spices, the herbs should bring a characteristic aroma to the dish.

What you should also know is that if you want to really understand Indian cooking, then stop latching onto a handful of ingredients. A vast diaspora of ingredients is left to explore. We’re talking about herbs and spices that are intrinsic to Indian home cooking but you may not know about them. Here we make an effort to list them out —

1. Radhuni

Radhuni is used extensively in Bengali cooking. This spice is not necessarily on the radar of young chefs who are intrigued by western cooking, but most people who have embraced Bengali cuisine will know how very popular it is in home cooking. It has a strong flavour, often compared to the taste of celery. When used sparingly, it brings a very distinct flavour, which smells something like parsley, but also reminds one of the carom seeds. Radhuni is one of the main spices in the Bengali spice mix, known as Panch Phoron. 

2. Ratanjot

Here’s a fun fact about the bright red colour in the marinade of our beloved tandoori chicken and rogan josh. The essential food colouring is derived from an ingredient known as ratanjot. It is a traditional herb used to add the signature red colour in the marinade. Then there’s another way of using ratanjot: in a skillet, heat up some oil or ghee. Throw in the ratanjot powder. You may pour the aromatic red oil over your main dish such as a curry.

3. AnardanaPhoto: Aspa Styl

If you are spice hunting and find yourself sun-dried seeds which come from pomegranates, then do experiment with these seeds which carry plenty of flavours. Pomegranate seeds are ground in the form of a powder too which can be used in sauces, soups and salads. In Punjabi cooking, anardana is used as a souring agent. It brings a lip-smacking tang to a dish such as chole masala. Anardana seeds also add crunch to the dish, which is relished for the reason that these seeds pack a punch.

4. Jakhiya 

Jakhiya seeds are used in authentic cooking in Garhwali cuisine of Uttarakhand. Also known as wild mustard which is cultivated in the Himalayan region, the jakhiya seeds are used to temper many dishes, and it is often preferred over cumin and mustard. It is best enjoyed in a potato dish such as jakhiya aloo. The aroma is warm and sweet. Tempering jakhiya for vegetables and curries is a sure way to add a lovely flavour to your dish. That is why the demand for jakhiya has gone up, but as city dwellers cannot find jakhiya in their grocery stores, they may have to order them on a website which only sells spices and herbs.  

5. Dagad Phool

Photo: Shawaz Alam

Here’s one of the most interesting finds in the spice category – this particular ingredient is known as dagad phool, which means stone flower in English. It’s a mystery why it’s been called so. But dagad phool lends a smoky flavour to the dish. That is why it sneaks into many dishes in Chettinad cooking, and the Maharashtrian spice mix known as goda masala.

Have you heard of these spices?