Herbispice takes you on a journey of aromatic and culinary discovery in Asian Spices and their use in the preparation of food guaranteed to tickle and awaken your taste buds.
All of the unique Asian spices and herbs available will fill up the pantry of an Asian cooking enthusiast very quickly. Here is a short-list of the most commonly used spices and herbs:
Asafoetida – (as-uh–fet-i-duh) Obtained from the root of Ferula asafoetida. This spice is very pungent, has a strong odour, improves flavour when added to food and is also an excellent digestive. Asafoetida is usually used whenever the recipe calls for a sauté with garlic, onions etc.
Bay Leaves – Used widely in preparation of rice dishes especially Biryani. Powdered bay leaf is a common ingredient in ‘garam masalas’. You can substitute bay leaves with thyme.
Cardamom – A highly aromatic herb from the ginger family that has a powerful minty taste. Cardamom is a key ingredient of ‘garam masalas’. If unavailable, you may use a blend of nutmag and cinnamon.
Cinnamon – is a bark and is one of the most common ingredients in Asian cooking and is also used in medicinal preparations. Cinnamon is highly aromatic and sweetish to taste.
Cloves – A clove is the dried bud from the clove tree technically belonging to the Myrtaceae, Syzygium Aromaticum family of trees. Cloves have a sweet-pungent taste and is used in cooking, making of ‘garam masalas’ and is an important ingredient in dental care products.
Curry Leaf – Leaves of the curry tree (Murraya koenigii), is used when a receipe requires a seasoning. Raw curry leaves have a powerful sweetish-bitter flavour but when cooked, adds great flavour and taste to the dish. A must in all Asian curries.
Five Spice Powder – This is Chinese spice blend consisting of equal parts of cinnamon or cassia, cloves, fennel and Szechuan pepper. The five spice powder is used to flavour stir fries, stews and greasy meat dishes.
Garam Masala – The ‘garam masala’ which translates to meaning “spicy spice” is the single most important ingredients and is a must in almost all Indian and Pakastani recepies. Loosely called “garam masala”, it is actually a mixture of several spices the formulation of which, differs from region to region. Some ingredients however are common and these include Cardamom, Pepper, Cloves, Bay leaves, Cumin, Kalonji, Nutmeg or Mace, Cinnamon and Coriander.
Kaffir Lime Leaves – Leaves of the Kaffir lime tree are an authentic part of Thai cuisine. Kaffir lime leaves smell and taste like citrus and can be chopped, cooked and eaten (an acquired taste), or added whole, cooked and removed. Kaffir lime tree leaves can be substituted with lime zest, key limes or lemon leaves.
Black Cumin – Obtained from the Nigella Sativa plant, black cumin is an important ingredient in the making of confections and liquors. It is also used in preparations of curries in Pakistan as well as in their famous bread known as “Peshawari Naan”.
Vietnamese coriander – Also often called Vietnamese cilantro. The leaves has a peppery taste with hints of mint and cilantro. It is an important ingredient in making soups.
Lemon grass – A long, extremely rough grass with a razor sharp edge. Crushing it with your finger releases a strong lemony flavour. It is an important ingredient in a large number of Asian dishes and is especially used in making lemon flavoured tea (just a 4-inch piece from a single blade of lemon grass will suffice). It has great medicinal value too. A concoction of dried ginger and lemon grass is used as a cure for soar throat.
Pippali – Most folks find pepper hot. Pippali is even hotter. Pippali is a thin, long, black fruit that consists of many tiny, black, seed-like beads resembling poppy seeds. It is an Ayurvedic herb, often used for Indian pickles and in Malaysian and Indonesian cooking.
Saffron – Definitely the World’s most expensive spice! Saffron is the stigma of the flower Crocus Sativus and is used as a flovouring agent in sweets. Saffron imparts a sweet flavour and a golden colour to the preparation.
Star Anise – A star-shaped seed with eight points that is either added whole or broken into pieces and used for cooking. Usually, it is not eaten and removed before the dish is served.
Szechuan Pepper – These are a milder version of the regular pepper. Szechuan pepper are berries that resemble black peppercorn but are more flavourful than hot. They have a spicy, lemony flavour and cause the mouth to go slightly numb. A common ingredient in Eastern Asian cuisine, particularly Tibetan cuisine and Chinese hot pot dishes.
Thai Basil – An important ingredient in the preparation of red and green Taiwanese curries. It is spicier and has a more minty flavour than regular basil.
Turmeric – One of the most important ingredient in Asian cooking. It is made from the root of the turmeric plant and has a yellow colour and a spicy, peppery, earthy flavour. Turmeric is a must in most curry preparation in India. It is usually dried and used in its powder form. In paste form, it is also used as an antiseptic in traditional Indian medicine and also as a skin toner in beauty products.