Panch Phoron To Potli, 9 Regional Indian Masalas You Should Know

India is a land of spices, renowned worldwide for its vibrant and aromatic culinary traditions. From the fiery curries of the north to the fragrant biryanis of the south, masalas play a pivotal role in shaping the diverse and flavorful tapestry of Indian cuisine. While names like garam masala, turmeric, and cumin have become synonymous with Indian cooking, there exists a fascinating array of regional and state-specific masalas that remain relatively obscure, yet deserve much more attention.

Beyond the familiar blends, India boasts a treasure trove of masalas crafted meticulously over generations, each reflecting the unique tastes and culinary preferences of different regions. Here are 9 you should know:

1. Bhaja Moshla: 

Hailing from the state of West Bengal, Bhaja Moshla is a traditional spice blend used to enhance the flavours of various Bengali dishes from Ghugni to Kosaha. It’s very simple but packed with flavour and typically consists of roasted and ground spices like cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and cardamom.

2. Goda Masala: 

Goda Masala is a quintessential spice mix from Maharashtra, India. It is a complex blend of aromatic spices, including coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, black cardamom, bay leaves, and dry coconut among many more. It also includes the lesser-known stone flower (dagad phool), a uniquely Indian spice. This masala adds a warm and earthy fragrance to Maharashtrian curries and vegetables.

3. Cafreal Masala: 

Hailing from the coastal state of Goa, Cafreal Masala is a fiery spice blend used in the preparation of the famous Goan Cafreal Chicken although it can be used in a multitude of situations. The masala typically includes ingredients like green chillies, ginger, garlic, coriander leaves, peppercorns, cloves, and cumin seeds, resulting in a vibrant and zesty flavour.

4. Panch Phoron: 

Meaning "five spices," Panch Phoron is a traditional Bengali spice blend. It comprises equal parts of five whole spices: fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds (kalonji), cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, and fennel seeds. The five spices are thought to connect with the Ayurvedic concept of Pancha Bhoota or the five elements. The mix is used for tempering and adds a unique flavour to various Bengali dishes.

5. Shaa Machal: 

This spice blend is a speciality of Manipur. It is commonly used in the preparation of meat and fish dishes although a version called Shaa Machal Apouba is used in vegetarian meals. Sha Machal typically contains a combination of spices like black peppercorns, coriander, cardamom, mace and nutmeg, all coarsely ground into a heady spice mix. 

6. Bottle Masala:

A traditional masala for the East Indian community that’s used on everything from meat to veggies, this masala often has over 20 different ingredients and each family has their own closely guarded secret recipe. Named after the brown or green recycled beer bottles they were often stored in, these masalas are traditionally hand-pounded in a wooden cask and stocked up for an entire year.

7. Milagai Podi:

Podi Masala is a powdered spice mix that is popular in the South Indian states predominantly Tamil Nadu. It typically contains lentils, dried red chillies, curry leaves, and various spices, roasted and ground to a coarse powder. Podi Masala is often mixed with oil or ghee and served with idlis, dosas, or rice.

8. Bassar Masala: 

Bassar Masala is a flavourful masala mix often used in Kashmir and Pakistan to make meat dishes and other curries. The masala includes chilli, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, cumin seeds, citric acid, coriander, turmeric and more. This mixture lends a unique taste to the cuisine of the region and can differ slightly between areas.

9. Potli Masala

Potli Masala is a popular spice blend from Hyderabad and it's the secret behind the famous Hyderabadi biryani. It is made by combining an assortment of 15-2- exotic whole spices, including stone flower, rose petals, vetiver roots and more. Potli Masala is often used in enhance the flavours of traditional Nizami dishes.