Masalas are an integral part of everyday cooking in India. From dry masalas to wet pastes, from homemade masalas to off-the-shelf masalas, they are fantastic bouquets of spice blends available across the country!
The world knows India for the spices we produce. Today, curry powder and garam masala are two Indian spices mixes that find space on any kitchen or supermarket shelf around the world. However, the depth and nuance of Indian food cannot be boiled down to generic spice mixes. Across the length and breadth of the country, each community and each region uses special traditional blends of spices to add unique flavours to their food.
A large set of Indian spices come together in various combinations, so different and so distinctive from each other, that they produce new flavour combinations in themselves. Indian masalas seem no less than a genie in a bottle, which when opened, enables you to create magic!
Pankaj’s mixed cultural heritage and her journeys across the country gave her the opportunity to taste many of these intriguing, beautiful flavours.
I remember my dad bringing back tikki masala every time he went to Jammu or Srinagar on work; my Punjabi paternal grandmother, my Biji’s special garam masala recipe was the flavouring of my childhood; my Bengali maternal grandmother, my Gamma, would use panch phoron to add her love to almost all the vegetables she would make.
Punjabi flavours were what I grew up with and Lucknow introduced me to some of the finest flavours I have known. I learnt a lot from many friends as well— gunpowder and sambar masala from my south Indian friends, bottle masala from an East Indian friend in Mumbai—and my mind boggled at the amazing permutations and combinations of spices that seemed unknown to the world beyond the region in which they were created and used!
And so, I set upon the task of bringing them all together in one place for people like me who believe in ‘freshness first’! It also struck me that while there are many books that introduce one to spices, their flavours and their uses, no book glorifies the simple blends we use daily in Indian kitchens.
I have identified around fifty such spice mixes—some Indian and some from across the globe. I hope you enjoy this collection just as much as I enjoyed putting it together!
– Pankaj Bhadouria
Publishers: Penguin India