Turmeric powder – Turmeric is used as a spice in many different types of cuisines, Very few Indian dishes are cooked without turmeric. Recent look into the health benefits of oriental spices have revealed turmeric to have a beneficial effect on cancer and Alzheimer’s. The best part about turmeric is that it quite odor free so a dab to any dish, even if it is not necessarily Indian, will not be detected.
Chili Powder – I am not an expert in chili powder to know how exactly the chili powder sold in American grocery stores is different from the chili powder that I use from the Indian grocery store in terms of composition of chilli’s. I have however found that there is a qualitative difference in heat – how I sweat once I have eaten the two different chili’s. The chili from the Indian grocery store makes my forehead sweat. The chili’ from the regular grocery store adds some baseline heat but is never spicy enough.
Hing - Also known as asafoetida is used as a digestive aid in food as a condiment and in pickles. In most Indian dishes it typically works as a flavor enhancer. A standard component of Indian cuisine, it used along with turmeric, particularly in lentil preparations such as dal.
Panch Phoron – This is a unique blend of five spices that is used to season Bengali (East Indian) dishes. The spices are cumin, fennel, nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds, and mustard seeds. This spice aids in cooking some really flavorful vegetarian and Indian dishes all at the same time.
Jeera – Indian (Hindi) word for cumin, used in many Indian dishes. Great way to add some quick flavor, specially to rice.
Jeera Powder - Roasted cumin powder, a real staple of any Indian kitchen. The cumin powder in this spice kit is homemade. I start with roasting the cumin seeds and then grinding them.
Dhania Powder – Coriander powder. The coriander powder is homemade as well.
Tej Patta - Bay leaves. Used to flavor lentils or curries. In Indian cooking, this is done mostly by throwing bay leaves in oil and flavoring the oil used for preparations.
Dry Red Chilli – All I can say is that every chili can subtly enhance the flavor in a particular way that another chili can’t. So Indian dry red chili has it’s own particular flavor and I can certainly tell a difference in the taste when I use other chili. That said, this is the easiest thing to substitute in Indian cooking if you run out. You can always use crushed red pepper that may be hanging around from pizza takeouts.
Garam Masala - Is a spice mixture that comprises of several spices considered to be “warmer” spices – peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom pods, and others. The composition of garam masala is no exact science and can be different from region to region as well as different among families.