TRANSLATED: Twenty of the most popular spices used in Indian Cooking

The Indian community in Durban is significant, it’s one of the largest Indian populations outside of India. Historically, this dates back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when many Indians came to the region as indentured laborers to work on sugar plantations.

This community is very diverse, composed of several religious, linguistic, and cultural groups. There are Hindus, Muslims, and Christians, and languages spoken include Tamil, Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati, and English.

English is the primary language of communication for many South African Indians today, especially in urban areas like Durban.

The Indian community, which places great emphasis on family life and education, has a significant influence on the cultural life of the city, particularly in areas such as business, politics, various professions and, of course, cuisine, with “Durban Curry” being a famous local adaptation of Indian cooking.

Let’s not leave out a great sense of humour and charitable hearts.

Here is a list of 20 of the most popular spices used in Indian cooking, along with their English, Tamil, Hindi, Urdu & Gujarati names (in Latin Script) , and a brief description:

  1. Cumin (Tamil: Jeeragam, Hindi/Urdu: Jeera, Gujarati: Jeeru): Earthy, aromatic spice seeds, used for their distinctive flavor and aroma.
  2. Coriander (Tamil: Kothamalli, Hindi: Dhania, Urdu: Dhaniya, Gujarati: Dhana): Used both in seed form and as a leafy herb. It’s slightly sweet and citrusy.
  3. Turmeric (Tamil: Manjal, Hindi/Urdu: Haldi, Gujarati: Haldar): This spice is known for its bright yellow color and is widely used in Indian cooking. It has a unique earthy and slightly bitter flavor, and is well-regarded for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s commonly used in curries and other savory dishes for its color and health benefits.
  4. Mustard seeds (Tamil: Kadugu, Hindi/Urdu: Rai, Gujarati: Rai): Small, round seeds that have a spicy, pungent flavor when cooked.
  5. Green Cardamom (Tamil: Elakkai, Hindi/Urdu: Elaichi, Gujarati: Elaychi): Used in both sweet and savory dishes. It has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance.
  6. Black Cardamom (Tamil: Karuppu Elakkai, Hindi/Urdu: Kali Elaichi, Gujarati: Badi Elaychi): It has a smoky flavor and aroma, and is often used in rice dishes and curries for a depth of flavor.
  7. Cloves (Tamil: Krambu, Hindi/Urdu: Laung, Gujarati: Laving): Strong, pungent, and sweet. They’re used to give aromatic depth to curries and sweet dishes alike.
  8. Fenugreek (Tamil: Vendhayam, Hindi/Urdu: Methi, Gujarati: Methi): Used both in seed form and as a leafy herb. It has a slightly bitter taste and is often used in curry powders.
  9. Asafoetida (Tamil: Perungayam, Hindi/Urdu: Hing, Gujarati: Hing): Has a strong, pungent smell and is used sparingly to add an onion-like flavor to dishes.
  10. Black Pepper (Tamil: Milagu, Hindi/Urdu: Kali Mirch, Gujarati: Kala Mari): It has a sharp and mildly spicy flavor that goes well with many dishes.
  11. Cinnamon (Tamil: Pattai, Hindi/Urdu: Dalchini, Gujarati: Taj): Used in a variety of dishes, both sweet and savory. It has a warm, sweet, and woody aroma.
  12. Red Chili Powder (Tamil: Milagai Podi, Hindi/Urdu: Lal Mirch Powder, Gujarati: Lal Marcha Powder): Used for its hot taste and vibrant red color.
  13. Star Anise (Tamil: Natchathira Sombu, Hindi/Urdu: Chakra Phool, Gujarati: Badiyan): Has a strong, licorice-like flavor and is used primarily in biryanis and curries.
  14. Fennel Seeds (Tamil: Sombu, Hindi/Urdu: Saunf, Gujarati: Variyali): It has a sweet, licorice-like taste and is used both as a spice and a mouth freshener.
  15. Nigella Seeds (Tamil: Karunjeeragam, Hindi/Urdu: Kalonji, Gujarati: Kalonji): They have a slightly bitter taste and are often used in naan bread and various vegetable dishes.
  16. Saffron (Tamil: Kumkuma poo, Hindi/Urdu: Kesar, Gujarati: Keshar): One of the most expensive spices, used sparingly for its unique earthy flavor and vibrant color.
  17. Bay Leaf (Tamil: Brinji Ilai, Hindi/Urdu: Tej Patta, Gujarati: Tamal Patra): They have a strong, sharp and lightly bitter taste. Used in rice dishes like biryani and pulao.
  18. Mace (Tamil: Jadikkai Thol, Hindi/Urdu: Javitri, Gujarati: Jayfal na Gota): Outer coating of nutmeg, it’s used for its slightly sweet and warm flavor.
  19. Nutmeg (Tamil: Jadikkai, Hindi/Urdu: Jaiphal, Gujarati: Jayfal): It has a slightly sweet flavor and is used in both sweet and savory dishes, it’s especially common in dessert recipes.
  20. Tamarind (Tamil: Puli, Hindi/Urdu: Imli, Gujarati: Aamli): A sour fruit that is often used in lentil dishes, curries, and chutneys.

(If I have made any mistakes or left anything out, please let me know in the comments below)

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