The Best Kept Secrets of Indian Cuisine
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India’s diversity has been eulogised and been a matter of glory for the country. And with all the cultural, linguistic and regional diversity comes the varied food that people enjoy. Indian cuisine is actually an umbrella term that shelters under it several different ingredients, spices, fruits, vegetables and emotions. So, is there a specific way to use all these ingredients and cook up miracles in your kitchen? Well, not necessarily because there is no uniform taste palette that suits everyone. But can we make sense of the organised chaos that Indian cuisine is and know how to use our regular ingredients better or add some to our kitchen shelf which may have missed our attention? Let us attempt to do that.

Turmeric – It is one of the most commonly used spices all across India. A teaspoon of haldi is enough to give your gravies and khichdi a beautiful colour. But do you know that the anti-inflammatory property that the spice is known for works the best when paired up with black pepper? Although Turmeric and black pepper are powerful spices in themselves, combined together, they help your body fight against diseases like Asthma, Arthritis and even Alzheimer's. So, the next time your grandmother asks you to drink a glass of haldi-kali mirch ka kaadha, don’t throw a fit and gulp it.

Mustard oil – This beloved ingredient, straight from the kitchens of West Bengal has a pungent smell that can be overpowering for some who aren't used to consuming food cooked in mustard oil. The key to getting the balance right is heating up the oil to a high temperature before cooking or perhaps mixing it with some other oil to dilute its taste. But a Bengali will tell you that they like to have uncooked shorshe tel poured over some panta-bhat and kacha posto!

Onion seeds or Kalonji – The most commonly used ingredients for tempering, or tadka are jeera (cumin), rai (mustard), hing (asafetida), sookhi lal mirch (dry red chillies) or haldi (turmeric). Kalonji, the lesser-known tempering spice, often remains under the radar. But the next time you want to add a special touch to your plain bhindi bhujia or serve a facelifted version of your peeli dal for dinner, add Kalonji to your tadka and see the magic.

Green cardomom or Chhoti elaichi – Those elaichi in biryani jokes might be popular but you cannot tell me you do not like the aroma of this spice that can change the entire flavour of your chai, kheer or laddu. A cup of masala chai is incomplete without elaichi ke daane that fills up your nostrils with is refreshing smell.

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– Move over the plain jane American mustard sauce, diluted with Mayonnaise. This condiment from Bengal will be a pleasant surprise to your taste buds. Best paired with chops, fish fry or chicken cutlets, Kashundi is also a great ingredient to marinate your meat or fish before cooking. It is not readily available in supermarkets across the country, but rest assured, you'll find a bottle lying in the kitchen of every Bengali.

Stone flower– A lost spice in modern times, most do not know the existence of patthar ke phool that can change how your regular biryani or poha tastes like. It is most likely that you will have to purchase it online because even the stacked-up city masala shops do not have it anymore.

Sugar – What is Popular Miss Sugar doing amongst these backbenchers, you ask. Well, do you know our Indian cuisine has so many uses of sugar other than what it does best – sweeten our food. A dash of sugar is put in heated ghee to add a lovely, reddish colour to your kheer or gravies.

Dried Fenugreek leaves – If you ever cancel your plans of having methi ke parathe for breakfast because you have run out of fresh methi saag, then make a quick dash towards the market and buy yourself a packet of Kasuri methi for immediate and future use. Put it in your thepla, paratha and as garnish in your shahi paneer to get the most out of it.

While the above-mentioned tips and tricks are not hard and fast rules to cook, they can come in handy if you want to zing up your food or get the most out of the ingredients that you have. Happy cooking!