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Piggyphile

Best Asian Spices to Buy

I am coming on a rare trip to the UK next week and intend to visit London to pick up some Asian spices for cooking. I want to cook more Asian food, particularly veggie and perhaps have a go at growing things but I don't know enough about what spices are most frequently used and searching for a list brings up a million different spices, I need to narrow them down a bit to things I will actually use.

I hope to get a couple of cookery books (e.g. something by Madhur Jaffrey) but what do folks recommend? I have previous used the usual supermarket ingredients such as cardamom pods, cumin seed, turmeric powder etc but what is tamarind paste, asafoetida, ajowan seeds and rasam powder? Will I use them enough to justify looking for them?

I will be looking for fresh turmeric to try growing and might try to get a small indian curry leaf plant Murraya koenigii back in my suitcase and or a kaffir lime plant.

Your thoughts would be appreciated. Northern Spain only really has Pimenton or supermarket curry powder.
tahir

Tamarind is the fruity sourness in HP sauce, it's a great flavour but not essential, nowadays I tend to knock up plum based alternatives.

My essentials would be:

*cloves
*coriander - easy to grow your own, stores for ages
*cumin - never tried it but should be perfectly possible to grow
*cinammon (actually cassia)
*bay leaves - easy peasy in spain
black cardamom
*fenugreek - easy to grow, if you don't want to faff with harvesting seed the dried leaf has a very similar flavour
turmeric - should be relatively easy to grow in spain
*black pepper

other spices I use less often:
*black mustard seed
cardamom
*black cumin
fennel

I use all the starred ones in my garam masala, bulk of it is corainder, cumin and cassia with little bits of the rest.

No point getting stuff you're not going to use regularly as it'll be devoid of flavour by the time you get round to it. Also don't buy ground spices, they'll already have lost most of their aromatics during processing, the rest will go quite quickly in a jar in your kitchen
tahir

Obviously my selection is based on Punjabi food (the most similar to what your average UK curry house serves up)
dpack

cumin and coriander should both grow well in your climate so it would be worth planting some and cooking the rest.

the same goes for chillis so use the seeds from some nice fresh ones.

some of the spice mixes are useful ,garam masala and puri puri mix are good dry ones,
for the best flavour use pastes (patak's are good) to marinate the meat for tandoori,madras,korma etc etc .you can mix your own but pastes are convienient.

for veggie dishes as well as spices and curry leaves stocking up on blocks of coconut cream (mix with hot water as required)is sensible
tahir

for the best flavour use pastes (patak's are good) to marinate the meat for tandoori,madras,korma etc etc .you can mix your own but pastes are convienient.


Marinades are easy, never bought a paste in me life, I use these quite a lot:

1. Minty Yog
Natural yoghurt
Fresh coriander
Fresh Mint
Chillies (fresh preferably but dried will do)
Garam masala
Salt
Turmeric if you want a bit of colour

Stick it all in a liquidiser and mush to a paste

2. Plum
Heat equal weights of chopped plum and onion with some garlic (say 2 cloves of garlic per onion), chillies, garam masala, salt.

Liquidise when mushy

3. Lemon/Coriander
Finely chopped bunch of coriander
whole cumin
ground coriander
salt
chilli
lemon juice and zest
a touch of coriander
oil
dpack

im lazy Embarassed

fresh made is best but a spoonful of jar paste and yogurt or juice or whatever and chuck it in the fridge is easy .

i do sometimes make spice mixes but i usually spoon

i forgot cinnamon ,the powder is a waste of money unless very fresh,the expensive thin sliced rolled up stuff is ok for making powder or chucking in whole but for rice i tend to use the big lumps of bark which is a lot cheaper than the rolled stuff.

ps all spices are best in airtight jars in a dark draw ,i use square jars as they fit together better
Nicky Colour it green

I use black onion seeds in bhajis - wouldn't be the same without them imho
tahir

im lazy Embarassed


can't believe that Smile

Quote:
fresh made is best but a spoonful of jar paste and yogurt or juice or whatever and chuck it in the fridge is easy .


And not bad at all, I jyust don't find it that difficult to make fresh

Quote:
i forgot cinnamon ,the powder is a waste of money unless very fresh,the expensive thin sliced rolled up stuff is ok for making powder or chucking in whole but for rice i tend to use the big lumps of bark which is a lot cheaper than the rolled stuff.


Totally, you can grate cassia or cinammon quite quickly on a fine microplane grater, 1/2 tsp fresh is probably as aromatic as 1 tbsp preground
dpack

i use the small pot with a blade that came with the stick blender for powdering softish spices and the pestle n mortar for hard seeds etc

a slight aside from "curry"spices but the type of shop that has them in decent sized bags might also have linseed which is ace in breads or sprouted.i got 500 gm for a quid last week,
earthyvirgo

My basic spice range (used in varying quantities depending on the curry) is:

asafoetida
Cumin Seed
Coriander seed
Fenugreek seed
yellow and black mustard seed
black onion seed

Tumeric
Cardamom (green ones)
Curry leaves (bought dried)
Ginger (fresh)

EV
NorthernMonkeyGirl

I'll just add that you should get whole spices where possible, I now have a quantity of cumin that's gone a bit tasteless because it was already ground.

I think my basics for Asian-type cooking are cumin, coriander (seed), black onion (actually Nigella) seeds, fennel seeds.
Behemoth

Yes, invest in a grinder/mill if you can and buy whole seeds.
All the above.
Tamarind paste keeps forever.
dpack

tamarind is ace stuff

we all seem to think cumin a core spice but it does come in various forms

with the grey green type the medium sized seeds seem to have most flavour

with the black sort the seeds are generally medium size but the taste is more complex than the pale ones

for onion baji ,cauliflower dishes,and saag i prefer the black ones but for a part of a "curry spice mix"the pale ones seem to blend in rather than dominate the more delicate flavours

ps if you are more veggie than sheepy get green cardamom(they are good in sweets and ice creams as well as savory dishes but for mutton or goat the black ones are perfect .



im starting to sound like i know what im on about Rolling Eyes
Piggyphile

Thanks guys, really helpful, I might get a manual grinder as well whilst I am there, My current grinder is for coffee and I don't fancy the mix of the two. Blocks of coconut also sounds useful. Nick

An electric coffee grinder, a pepper mill, or a pestle and mortar will all work well.

Are you flying? That would rule out a decent pestle and mortar, but that'd be my choice. Use it to make great salsa, too.
sean

It's dead easy to buy decent pestle and mortars in Spain. We've got two that we brought back from Asturias. Nick

I'd take that over any kind of grinder, any day. Piggyphile

I have a granite pestle and mortar but I was thinking of grinding cinnamon and coriander seed and that sort of thing as required. sean

Get one of the little wooden sets for just doing a bit at a time. Works a treat. We bought ours in a hardware shop in Cangas de Onis. Nick

I have a granite pestle and mortar but I was thinking of grinding cinnamon and coriander seed and that sort of thing as required.

Aye. That's what I use mine for. I have some little ones, but they're neither use nor ornament.
dpack

dont use the coffee grinder Shocked it might be wrong in both directions .

i have been thinking that ginger might grow in your climate ,it would be worth a try .

re grinding spices for immediate use ,my method with seeds is to collate them into the correct proportions and then drop them into a hot pan (no oil )until the first to pop do so ,then tip them into the mortar for a grinding

this works very well with most of the seedy spices
earthyvirgo

I have a granite pestle and mortar but I was thinking of grinding cinnamon and coriander seed and that sort of thing as required.

Aye. That's what I use mine for. I have some little ones, but they're neither use nor ornament.

Have a marble one and a stone one, both do the job fine.
I couldn't be bothered with a gizmo that needs dismantling and washing.

EV
earthyvirgo

dont use the coffee grinder Shocked it might be wrong in both directions .

i have been thinking that ginger might grow in your climate ,it would be worth a try .

re grinding spices for immediate use ,my method with seeds is to collate them into the correct proportions and then drop them into a hot pan (no oil )until the first to pop do so ,then tip them into the mortar for a grinding

this works very well with most of the seedy spices

...as long as you catch them before they leave the pan in all directions!

EV
dpack

a lid often helps Laughing tahir

Coriander is the spice I grind most often, I've got a pepper grinder specifically for it v easy Shan

I'll just add that you should get whole spices where possible, I now have a quantity of cumin that's gone a bit tasteless because it was already ground.

I think my basics for Asian-type cooking are cumin, coriander (seed), black onion (actually Nigella) seeds, fennel seeds.

According to my Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices and Flavourings, it is a common mistake for Nigella to be confused with onion seeds.
Shan

Thanks guys, really helpful, I might get a manual grinder as well whilst I am there, My current grinder is for coffee and I don't fancy the mix of the two. Blocks of coconut also sounds useful.

I have a little Russel Hobbs Spice Grinder, which works a treat. 13.99 from Amazon. It doesn't require dismantling or washing. I brush it out with a dry paint brush.
Shan

I use these a lot:

coriander
cumin
fennel
dry ginger flakes (I grind it to powder as needed)
green cardamom
black & white peppercorns
cassia
star anise
cloves
yellow and black mustard seeds
nutmeg

I like to have these:

black cardamom
nigella
fenugreek
caraway
saffron
mace
poppy seeds (not a spice but adds great flavour)
tamarind
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