Masala Dabba are a must in most Indian kitchens, and they contain these 5 essential spices that no food in Indian cuisine can do without. Find out what these spices are.
Must Have Spices in Masala Dabba
Indian cuisine, unlike the rest of the world isn’t built on the ingredients or sauces, but the variety of spices that go into the food prepared. Indian food is labor intensive, flavorsome, delicious and rich.
The food preparation is also quite elaborate. A collection of spices when ground or pounded, blend together to create a new, distinct taste. The addition or removal of a spice changes its taste and the flavor of a dish.
Since spices are the most important ingredients in Indian kitchens, they come with their own vessel to hold them. Most Indian households possess a spice box, also called ‘Masala Dabba’ in Hindi. You will never know when you need the spices in the food, whether to make something simple as Zeera Rice, an elaborate Prawn Biryani, a dry or gravy.
Masala dabbas can be traced since time immemorial, when they were made of wood, passed down through generations and had small compartments carved into them. Today’s spices boxes are made of metal, either stainless steel or brass, come in a round shape and keep the spices flavor and texture intact. They are also very handy, can store small quantities of spices and doled out with spoons.
Although several spices are used in Indian cuisine, below are the main ones that an Indian kitchen can’t do without.
- Salt – Fine salt is used in almost every food, whether wet or dry dishes, even sometimes desserts. Salt adds flavor to dishes, maintains pH balance and even a pinch goes a long way in adding taste.
- Red Chilli Powder – Made by grinding red chillies finely, red chilli powder is another spice that is used in almost 70% of Indian savory dishes. The spice of food is lent by this. It is used in breakfast dishes like Ven Pongal to mainly mains of Aloo Gosht and Hyderabadi Katti Dal , pickles such as Nimbu Hari Mirch Ka Aachar to even Chinese dishes like Asian Style Garlic Tofu.
- Sarson/Black Mustard Seeds – Primarily used in South Indian cuisine, such as for the tadka, mustard seeds have a uniquely earthy taste. They greatly benefit health, and their small size ensures they can be discreetly added into any food. South Indian dishes such as Coconut Rice or Thengai Sadam make use of this spice very often. It is also used in tempering Hyderabadi Khatti Dal and other dry dishes like Potato Cashew Nut Roast.
- Zeera/Cumin Seeds – Because of its unique taste and flavor, Cumin is a very easy to identify spice in dishes. The distinct taste of kachoris and pakodas, and it healthy properties which make Jal Jeera, a spicy Indian cooler a must-have in Indian households, makes the spice very essential. Most dishes like Khara Pongal and Lauki Ka Thepla make use of it either in seed form or powdered form.
- Haldi/Turmeric Powder – The vibrant and vivid hues of Indian cuisine can be attributed to its various masalas, but the main spice which is the mainstay, is Haldi or Turmeric powder. Haldi gives the beautiful bright color to Methi Thepla and adds a depth and richness to gravy dishes.
- Dhaniya/Coriander powder – A key ingredient to make the gravy and dry sabzies, coriander powder is a must have ingredients in my masala dabba. It gives thickness and earthy flavour to the dishes. Made by roasting coriander seeds and then grinding them to a fine powder, I like to make my own coriander powder at home.
The masala dabba is one kitchen storage box that any Indian kitchen just cannot do without. Stainless steel is the best option, and for many Indian women it exudes a sense of warmth, comfort and mother’s homemade food. These are the spices that are always in my Masala dabba. Do share your Masala Dabba secret with us. Cheers!!!!!!