Lesser Known Spicy Stars of The Indian Kitchen
Dr. Shweta U. Shah

Dr. Shweta U. Shah
27 April 2020

This article is authored by Dr. Shweta U. Shah. A practicing homeopath, she follows a patient-centred perspective, emphasizing the benefits of natural remedies and herbs, homeopathy and whole food nutrition.

We love using spices and adding oodles of flavour to our cooking. What’s more, spices also help boost our health! In fact, spices offer tremendous health benefits. Spices and condiments are obtained from the seeds, barks, stems and leaves of plants and have been used for thousands of years as aromatics and to treat diseases and conditions. Indian cuisine is renowned for its complexity and richness across the globe and spices have a lot to do with that. The aroma and flavor of the spice gives Indian dishes its taste and flavour. Given that these wonderful spices have health-promoting abilities, makes it a win-win situation for us!

5 undervalued spices that you should include into your pantry

There are spice staples that you’ll grab again and again – cumin, clove, cardamom, fennel and mustard. On the other hand, there are quite a few spice stars sitting in your pantry which you tend to ignore and overlook. Let’s explore these neglected aromatics!

1. Mace: nutmeg-seedsMace or javitri is the waxy red web-like aril that encapsulates the nutmeg seeds. The spice is similar in taste to nutmeg, although it tends to be a little more strong and peppery. Mace is especially versatile, and the aroma and the essential oils are more intense than that of nutmeg. It works wonderfully well in most Punjabi and Rajasthani based menus. The spice proffers good amounts of vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium. It acts as a potent anti-fungal, anti-depressant, and digestive aid.

2. Fenugreek seeds: We tend to use a lot of fenugreek leaves – methi thepla, methi paratha, methi malai mutter and so many more recipes, however we are not sold on the fenugreek seeds. Fenugreek seeds are bitter and the taste of the seeds is similar to burnt sugar. It doesn’t sound too appealing, but its flavour works well in strong dishes. Fenugreek seeds can be used whole or powdered, depending upon the recipe and your preference. The seeds help manage diabetes mellitus better, balance cholesterol levels, a GI tonic, encourage fat burning, facilitate kidney and liver health and soothe menstrual cramps.

3. Dagad phool: The black stone flower is a soft brown-black colored lichen which imparts the signature black colour to some masalas like Goda Masala, and Kala Masala. It has a powerful earthy aroma and which is released when the lichen is tempered in hot oil and is generally used in Chettinad, Hyderabadi and Marathi cuisines. Dagad phool is also a key ingredient in Tata Sampann Pav Bhaji masala, which is created by celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor. It gives this masala an earthy, authentic taste. This spice has significant medicinal value – is cooling, anti-inflammatory, perks up digestion and also has aphrodisiac properties.

4. Kalonji: Kalonji-Nigella-seedsNigella seeds are a very exciting spice which lends a beautiful aroma to your dish. We usually dry roast the seeds and use them for flavoring soups, stews, curries, samosas and kachoris. These minuscule black seeds proffer a whole lot of health benefits. They are packed with important vitamins and minerals and are known to manage blood pressure troubles, sluice out fat and manage blood sugar levels as well.

5. Star anise: The chakra phool is shaped like a star has 6 to 8 points, each enclosing a seed. Star anise has a strong, distinctive zest. The aromatic needs to be used in tiny amounts and is commonly used in savory dishes. Star anise is commonly used in garam masala blends, in biryani recipes and to make a strong cup of chai. The spice is used to infuse several liquours too and imparts a licorice-like flavour to them

Spice blends that you should have in your pantry

A quality masala or spice blend can be your best friend in the kitchen! Spice blends are convenient, economical and space-saving. They make sure that you always have the right flavours on hand for your recipes.

Be careful when you buy masalas - read labels carefully, make sure your masala does not contain fillers or chemicals. Tata Sampann offers a range of spice blends – pav bhaji masala, chhole masala, chicken masala, paneer masala, garam masala, kitchen king masala, and dal tadka masala. They comprise of selectively picked spices from the best of farms. Here’s to adding bags of flavour to your food and boosting your health profile as well!




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