Indian alternatives to International Spices
Dr. Shweta U. Shah

Dr. Shweta U. Shah
30 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.

What would our meals be like without spices? Imagine having to eat tasteless bland food, day after day; no salt and pepper to dust over our fries, no chaat masala to sprinkle over our sev puri, and no chili flakes over the pizza!

Spices play a pivotal culinary role and are responsible for the difference between a good and a great dish! Apart from the aroma, flavour, taste and sensorial appeal, spices secretly hold a whole host of health benefits for our body as well.

Spices, herbs, seasonings – the real culinary super stars!

Authentic Indian Spices

Spices, herbs and condiments have a very long history in all food cultures around the world. How would Italian cuisine be in the absence of basil, or Mediterranean cuisine without plenty of powdered sumac, or Chinese food without Five Spice? The spice is the chief element of any great recipe.

Each time you garnish your paneer masala with fresh coriander, pick a basil leaf from your kitchen garden or dust thyme over your roasted potatoes, you take part in a custom that goes back centuries! Spices and herbs connect us to the earth and history!

Each gastronomy style is deeply influenced by spices that are common to the region. When you cook international dishes, there may come a time when you might have to substitute a spice in a recipe. Whether the spice/herb isn’t available at your grocery store, or you've run out of it or simply want to mix things up, here are some Indian replacements.

Swap these continental spices for Indian ones!

Out of a particular international-inspired spice? Replace with these Indian equivalents. Take a look at these 5 spices that will do wonders for your continental cooking:

• Basil: Spices And Health Benefits Best loved for pesto, the basil is an integral part of the Italian cooking. Fragrant, with a peppery taste, basil is vital to preparing a great pesto and holds a significant place in all tomato-based pasta sauces. Types of basil also star in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. Tulsi belongs to the same species and is a good replacement for the Italian basil as well as Thai basil. What’s more, Tulsi or the holy basil is widely available, and some households even have a plant in their kitchen garden.

• Oregano: Another must-have for Italian cuisine, oregano is packed with robust antioxidants, iron, vitamin K and fibre. Oodles of the seasoning, take your pizza and pasta recipes to the next level! However, in case you don’t have dried oregano, you can always substitute it with finely chopped tulsi leaves.

• Parsley: Parsley is used extensively in Italian cooking. This Mediterranean seasoning is the most ideal complement to an array of dishes– particularly pasta sauces and seafood. Our dhania or coriander is an amazing stand-in, in the absence of parsley and works well with the recipes.

• Rosemary: Rosemary is one of the most aromatic herbs in the pantry. It is known to boost brain power and improve memory. In ancient Greece, scholars wore garlands made of rosemary to help them study. What’s more, the herb helps decrease the carcinogenic compounds released by cooked meat; given that it is packed with potent antioxidants which battle free radicals. Fresh mint leaves can be used as a reasonably good alternative to parsley.

• Cayenne: Cayenne is usually used powdered to flavour spicy dishes. A smidge goes a long way so be very careful how much you add to your dish. This spice has garnered immense popularity around the world and lovers of spicy food add it to practically every dish! Indian chilli powder can play the role of deputy in the absence of cayenne and can be used in all your robust sauces and pungent recipes.

When you replace one for the other, keep in mind that the aroma and flavor will not be precisely the same as is in the original dish. Nonetheless, if you follow these substitutions, the flavour profile will most certainly balance well and will definitely hint at the original. Also, when substituting, begin with half the stipulated amount and thereafter adjust to your personal tastes.

So stock up your pantry and start cooking! What’s more, these spices and herbs proffer many healing benefits to improve your lifestyle and help us stay healthy.


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