The weird and wonderful tastes of your local Asian grocery store.
Hello and welcome to a brave new world of… dried spices. Much maligned and far from being inferior to fresh herbs, dried spices have been used for centuries to preserve foods, add flavour to otherwise blah dishes and to disguise the tell-tale flavour of food that has ahem, somewhat passed its use-by date. Many spices might be familiar to the Finnish kitchen but what about Asian spices? Let’s take a look shall we?
Mustard seed – available in black, brown and light brown, mustard seeds are used in Indian cookery to impart a crunchiness and nuttiness to lentil curries and certain dishes. Heat oil and add mustard seeds and allow to pop to get the best out of them. Entertainment factor from dodging the popping seeds – priceless.
Following on from that are coriander seeds, which look like tiny little footballs. Used in certain fried snacks and often as a component in curry powder, dry roast coriander and then grind before using. Also available in powdered form but the flavour won’t be the same. Works a treat with fish dishes.
Cardamom – green and brown. Green cardamom has a more delicate flavour while brown is smokier, with some cooks comparing its flavour profile to camphor. Cardamom works well bashed and added to curries, or in chai tea.
|Tania Nathan is a Chinese-Sri Lankan Malaysian who loves her food and is often to be found rummaging through a freezer somewhere in Hakaniemi. Come say hi!|
Fenugreek – a tiny but potent yellowish brown seed, it adds excellent flavour and boosts digestion. Add to fish curries or drink as a tea with hot water.
Nutmeg – A mild sedative, it adds a floral hit to certain dishes. Buy whole and grate into dishes.
Mace – the flower from the nutmeg tree, it adds colour and a certain floral flavour to dishes. It’s not as common as nutmeg though.
Cinnamon – whole cinnamon sticks are used in curries, to flavour drinks and can be used to sweeten dishes because its flavour tricks the taste buds into thinking is something is sweeter than it is. Much like me. Also used in Chinese dishes that have heavy flavours, to help bring a sweetness - such as pork belly stew.
Cassia bark – Looks-wise cassia is not very pretty and is a poorer cousin to cinnamon bark. But it has a less sweet flavour profile and can be used with more success in savoury dishes.
Nigella seed – tiny and black, nigella is great on breads and to top yogurt as a part of an Indian meal. It has a faint onion flavour and words well cooked in with white rice as well.