Posts tagged ‘Spices’

How to buy masalas and spices in an Indian store?

When you walk into the spice aisle of an Indian grocery store, you can easily get overwhelmed by the plethora of choices and complicated names.

1. MTS recommends that you choose a few things at a time and try it out.  If you can remember the names on the menu from you favorite Indian restaurant, then look for masala powders that refer to the same.  For example if you liked the classic “tandoori chicken masala” while dining out then look for Tandoori masala.
2. If you are not into making the spice blends for curries and other items from scratch, then stick with the simple pre-made powders, which are blends of various popular spices. These blended spices do not have to be used only for the recommended recipe on its box.  You can always a sprinkle a little of this and little of that.. as far as you like the aromas and taste. Most spices have to be used sparingly. Try not to mix more than 2 different masala powders as they may have conflicting flavors or sometimes impart some bitterness.  The simpler the better for clean flavors.
3. Masala powders that you could use for most recipes Tava fry masala, Tandoori masala, Tikka masala and Garam masala etc. These are blended spices as well.
4. An important note while buying masalas for direct use in a stir fry – make sure they are the kind for making curries. Do not buy individual ground spices (like cinnamon powder, clove powder) and try to add them individually, they can get a bit tricky and may end up being very pungent or even bitter.  This goes back #2 – stick to pre-made masala powders.
5. As much as possible – stick to buying the Dry masala powders. You can store these in the freezer for a long period of time and you will only be using 1 Tbsp or less when making a small batch to serve 2 people.  The pre-made paste form of masala cannot be stored for too long after opening them and it may be way too much masala for small batches of food.
6. A lot of these masala packages are not tightly packed, so you may be able to sniff and decide if you like it!  If it smells good, its gotta taste good.  If you really like something when you eat it at a restaurant, be sure to note the name down. There is a very high probability you will find a masala powder for that item in an Indian store. The good part about these are that they are easy to use and stores well for a long periods of time.
7.  Most importantly the masala powders available in Indian grocery stores are very cheap, so you can buy a couple to experiment.

If you are still a bit confused, feel free to drop us a line any time and MTS will be more than happy to clarify any questions you may have.


March 18, 2009 at 11:27 am 1 comment

From the chef’s pantry – Episode 1 (Chettinad Cuisine)`

MTS was very fortunate to experience the culinary delights whipped up by Sue chef Kumar and assistant chef Senthil at the Temple bay beach resort in Chennai, India. An interesting interview with these chefs provided for various tips, recipes and tricks of the trade secrets to whip up efficient North Indian, South Indian, Chettinnad and Indo-Chinese  recipes. This four week series is sure to be a delight for MTS readers.

(L-R) Sue Chef Mr. Kumar and Chef Mr. Senthil

(L-R) Sue Chef Mr. Kumar and Chef Mr. Senthil

From the chef’s pantry – Episode 1

Chettinad cuisine – from the heart of Karaikudi (Tamilnadu) to readers across the world
The ever glamorous, aromatic spicy food from the south parts of Tamilnadu, India is an element of mystery to many home cooks. MTS aims to bring out the secrets involved in creating wonderful Chettinad curries through this post. Both Sue chef Kumar and chef Senthil at Temple Bay resorts, acknowledged that the secret to a good Chettinad curry lies in the making of the Chettinad masala. The mercantile contacts  with Burma (and the far east) combined with the natural availability of spices in this otherwise dry region of India probably gave birth to this flavorful cuisine. Chef Kumar insisted that this masala be cooked in the lowest heat setting possible which would allow the spices to roast adequately without getting burnt.  Well, the  science behind this art is simple. Most aromatic spices (such as the ones used in this recipe) have fat soluble essential oils that can be extracted in high heat.  So when these spices are roasted slowly with coconut oil (which has high boiling point  and density (heavy)) the aromatic oils from the spices ooze out and dissolve in the coconut oil due to their solubility in fat.  The coconut oil is now flavored with the aroma of a mixture of various spices.  This aroma is imparted to all the veggies and/or meat cooked in it.   The patience required for this recipe sure fetches great results. Once the masala is done it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. MTS has provided its readers tips on bulk preparation of this classical Chettinad masala. After all, mealtime success is all about efficiency.

Chettinadu masala:
List of ingredients and procedure credits: Chefs at Temple bay
Proportions by MTS
1 tsp coconut oil*
1/3 cup grated coconut*
2 Nos red chili peppers*
1 Tbsp coriander seeds*
½” piece ginger (crushed to pieces using mortar or blender)
2  pods garlic (crushed to pieces using mortar or blender)
1” piece cinnamon*
1 green cardamom*
12 nos. cloves*
1″ kalpasi* (also known as Black Stone Flower or Dagad Phool)
½ of star anise *
1 Tbsp fennel seeds*
2 Tbsp black pepper corns
1 bay leaf*
1/2 nutmeg*(also called as mace or javithri)
1 marathi moggu*
1 Tbsp cumin seeds *
1 sprig curry leaves*
* Spices are available in Indian grocery stores

How to make: Roast all the above mentioned ingredients in extreme low heat with coconut oil for 15 minutes and grind to a fine paste with just enough water.

MTS tip to make a big batch of Chettinad masala:
Avoid the coconut, ginger and garlic and roast just the spices and grind it to a fine powder. This powder can be stored airtight in the freezer. At the time of usage saute coconut,  ginger and garlic in 1/2 tsp of coconut oil, grind and add it to the ground  chettinad masala powder.  Use the same ratios  mentioned above for bulk preparation.

MTS recipe for chicken chettinad (chettinad fish curry/ vegeterian chettinad potato masala):
2 Tbsp gingelly oil (seasame oil)
2 cups finely chopped scallions or red onions
2 green chillies slit in the center but not cut into halves
1.5 cups freshly ground tomatoes
2 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 sprig curry leaves (leaves removed)
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp chilly powder
3 tsp corriander powder
1 Lb chicken or fish or potato
1 cup water

Chettinad fish curry

How to make:
Warm up the gingelly oil in medium low heat. Once the oil is warm add onions and a pinch of salt (to fasten the cooking process). Once the onions are translucent add garlic, curry leaves and green chillies. Cook this for 1-2 minutes until the garlic is cooked. Then add the tomatoes, chilly powder, salt, coriander powder and turmeric powder. Cook this mixture until the tomatoes are cooked and oil begins to ooze from the sides. Now add the chicken or fish or potatoes. When the chicken or fish or potatoes are half cooked add the ground Chettinad masala. Check and adjust for salt. Add 1 cup of water to get a gravy and simmer for 10 minutes until the chicken or fish or potatoes are cooked.

Note: Add the Chettinad masala little by little and check for spice.  Remember you can always add more, removing spice would be impossible.

Make it Fast, Fun, and Facile! – Sri

March 16, 2009 at 2:00 am 4 comments

Super bowl oven potatoes – the light way

Toddler FoodParty FoodKid FriendlyFamily Meal

This is a twist to the classic french fry by making it light and avoiding the deep fried calories.


1 32 Oz (2 lb) bag of pre-cut french fires (available in the frozen food sections)
Substitute: Potato wedges or other fries
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 Tbsp Italian seasoning (available in the condiment/ spice section)
1/2 Tbsp red chili flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (dry cheese available in a box near pasta)
Substitute: freshly grated Parmesan or grated Parmesan available in the cheese section)


How to make:
Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and grease it with oil or oil spray.  Arrange the fries in a single layer. Place in the oven for 5 minutes.  In the mean time measure and mix garlic powder, chili flakes, dried oregano and garlic powder to make the spice mixture.  Add salt if needed.  Italian seasoning, garlic powder and Parmesan are capable of imparting salt.  So check for salt in the spice blend before adding additional salt. Remove the fries from the oven, drizzle the oil and sprinkle the spice mixture. Toss the fries gently and place it back in the oven for 10 – 12 minutes until desire crispiness in achieved.  For added color place it under broil for 1 minute.  Remove the fries sprinkle Parmesan cheese and serve hot.

Make it Fast, Fun, and Facile! – Sri

Serving ideas:
Can be served with ketchup or make the ketchup interesting by adding some balsamic vinegar and Italian seasoning and microwave this mixture for 10 – 20 seconds.

Tips, tricks and alternatives:
The same method can be used to make various flavors of fries.  Some choices are mentioned below.
1. Southwestern fries  – Taco seasoning + dried cilantro +cumin powder + coriander powder + chili powder + salt + dried cilantro
2. Curried fries – curry powder (garam masala) + salt + chili powder + dried cilantro
3. Tandoori fries – Tandoori powder* + salt + chili powder + dried cilantro + dried mint
4. Mediterranean fries – cumin powder + black pepper powder + cinnamon powder (just a pinch) + salt + dried mint + dried oregano

January 12, 2009 at 1:24 am Leave a comment

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