Spices and aromatics are the very heart of Indian cooking. If there are no spices, it’s not Indian food. We Indians have a habit of spicing up our food to make it more hot and tasty. In ancient times majority of the spices were produced in India and exported worldwide. The fame of Indian spices is older than the recorded history. The story of Indian Spices is more than 7000 years old. Some of the spices are required for the aroma, some for flavour and some for complimenting other spices. Spices were mentioned in the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedas. Spices have always been believed to have healing and magical qualities. They have been used to cast spells, as incense in religious rites, to preserve corpses, to add aroma to perfumes and as aphrodisiacs. The word spice comes from Latin species, meaning a commodity of value and distinction.
Ayurveda believed that spices, with their medicinal qualities, could infuse health into the diet. For centuries, the social system of medicine was closely linked to the culinary culture of ancient India. With different climates in different parts of the country, India produces a variety of spices, many of which are native to the Subcontinent, while others were imported from countries of similar climates and have since been cultivated locally for centuries. Indian Spices are used in different forms: whole, chopped, ground, roasted, sauteed, fried, and as topping. They blend food to extract the nutrients and bind them in a palatable form. Flowers, leaves, roots, bark seeds and bulbs are used in endless combinations to produce an infinite variety of flavours: sweet, sharp, hot, sour, spicy, aromatic, tart, mild, fragrant or pungent.
Their tastes and aromas combine to create a kaleidoscope of exotic flavours to delight the plate. It is best to obtain spices in whole seed form and to grind them just prior to use. Curries based on Indian spices are integral to cuisines in several countries including UK, Australia, Germany, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, Philippines, Fiji, Tonga and the Caribbean Islands. Pepper, ginger and turmeric from India when mixed with cumin and coriander from the Arabs are now the base of several dishes across South Asia. This has been spread globally by the British as curry powder. In many ways, it can be said that spices were key in shaping the course of global history.