Raw ajwain smells like thyme but is more aromatic and less subtle in taste, as well as slightly bitter and pungent. Even a small amount of raw ajwain will completely dominate the flavour of a dish. In Indian cooking, ajwain is almost never used raw, but either dry roasted or fried in ghee or oil. This develops a much more subtle and complex aroma.



Allspice berries are grown predominately in Jamaica. Whole or ground, the flavour is akin to a combination of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.


Slices and dried powder made from sour, unripe mangoes. Amchor gives food a slightly sweet sourness and is used in Indian cookery. Lemon juice may be substituted.


Anise (not to be confused with start anise) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae native to the eastern Mediterranean and southwest Asia. Containing liquorice-like components, anise is sweet and very aromatic and is used to make many confectioneries and is added to some drinks.



Asafoetida is a species of Ferula native to Iran. It is an herbaceous perennial plant growing to two metres tall, with stout, hollow, stems. The leaves are 30–40 cm long and the flowers are yellow. Asafoetida resin has an aroma akin to fresh truffles. It is used in very small quantities such as adding a pinch to really hot oil a few seconds prior to adding other foods.


Basil tastes warm and spicy and has a wonderful scent. Excellent with pastas and fish dishes or pair with tomatoes in adding to soups and sauces.

Bay Leaves

Bay leaves have an aromatic flavour and are best used in soups, stews marinades and sauces. Can also add a little extra flavour to fish dishes.

Bay leaves

Black Peppercorns

Caraway seeds

Caraway Seeds

Caraway seeds have a sweet aromatic flavour and are generally used in seed cakes. They are also an essential ingredient in goulash and may be used to flavour salads, vegetable or cheese dishes.

Black Peppercorns

Peppercorns are the fruit of a tropical vine, in different stages of development. Black peppercorns are the unripe berries dried in the sun until hard and black. The flavour is more pungent than the green or white variety. Used whole or in most cases freshly ground, they give any savory dish some bite.

Cardamom Pods

Cardamom Pods

A member of the ginger family, cardamoms are used extensively in Indian curries, rice dishes and deserts. They may be used whole but removed prior to serving, or the pods opened and the seeds crushed. The white pods have been bleached and have less flavour and aroma than the unbleached green pods. Black cardamoms look a little like beetles and have an earthier, deeper flavour that the green cardamoms.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is a finely ground powder made from the dried cayenne chili. Most varieties of commercially available cayenne pepper are very hot and pungent.
Cayenne Pepper

Celery Seeds

The celery seeds will give a good hint of celery flavour to pickles and chutneys. They are also used for sprinkling on home made bread.

Celery seeds

Chilies (fresh)

Chilies have now become a popular ingredient in many dishes in every country of the world. They were originally grown in South America and Columbus discovered them in the Caribbean. Since that time they have been introduced to Asia (who now call them their own) and Africa and back to North America with the slave trade. There are probably in excess of 300 varieties of chili ranging from the very mild pimento to the almost dangerous Naga Jolokia and Trinidad Scorpion. Chilies should be stored, unwashed and wrapped individually in newspaper, in a plastic container in the salad tray of the refrigerator.

See also:

scoville chilistory


Chilies (dried)

Generally fresh red chilies which have been dried in the sun and can then be stored indefinitely. They are often added to hot oil for a few seconds until the skin darkens and they puff up. Normally they are not eaten (except by the very experienced chili freak) but left on the side of the plate. They are also ground to form chili powder.

Chili Powder

Similar to cayenne pepper but made from any dried red chili pepper and therefore can vary in strength substantially. Generally it is not as finely ground as cayenne pepper.

Chili powder



Cinnamon is warm and sweet and added to both sweet and savory dishes. It is the inner bark of the laurel tree and can be used ground or more usually in it’s stick form to flavour rice, couscous dishes and curries. Cinnamon in it’s stick form is normally removed before serving.



Chives have a sweet onion flavour and are added to soups, sauces, salads and egg dishes.



Cloves are the dried flower buds of a tropical tree in the Myrtaceae family. They can be used whole in rice dishes or ground to a powder and added to apple pies. In their whole state they are generally removed from dishes before serving. They are found mostly in Indonesia who produces almost 80% of the world's clove output (2005).

Coriander seeds

Coriander Seeds

The coriander plant produces both seeds and leaves but they each have a very different flavour. The seeds, either whole or ground, are a main ingredient in many curries and also in pickling spice. They have an orange taste but not overpowering.

Coriander leaves

Coriander Leaves

The coriander plant produces both seeds and leaves but they have a very different flavour. The leaves taste similar to parsley but "juicier" and with citrus-like overtones. The leaves are a favourite throughout Asia as either a flavouring or a garnish, generally added at the end of the cooking process so as not to cook out the flavour. Thais also use the roots of the plant as a basis for their tom yam soups.
Cumin seeds

Cumin Seeds

Cumin seeds have a warm, strong aromatic and slightly bitter flavour, and are used extensively in Indian curries, dahls and rice dishes. They are utilised in both the whole and ground form. Roasting cumin seeds brings out a wonderful aroma

Black Cumin Seeds

Black cumin seeds are finer and more expensive than regular cumin seeds. They resemble caraway seeds but have a more gentle aroma.

Black cumin seeds Curry Leaves

Curry leaves are from a tropical/sub-tropical tree in the Rutaceae family, which is native to India. Curry leaves are highly aromatic similar to bay leaves and generally used in Indian cooking. Fresh leaves should be used whenever available as they are far superior to the dried variety.
Curry leaves
Curry Powder

Curry powder may be bought pre-mixed but it is considered better to make your own. Finely grind coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dried red chilis and turmeric (in the proportions 2:2:2:1). This will make a medium hot powder. Increase or decrease the dried chilis to adjust the heat.



Dill is a short lived annual herb native to southwest and central Asia. The seeds are used as a spice and it’s fresh and dried leaves are used as herbs. The flavour is similar to caraway.

The bulb and foliage of the fennel plant are widely used in many of the traditions of the world. Fennel pollen is the most potent form of fennel, but also the most expensive. The leaves are delicately flavored and similar in shape to those of dill. The bulb is a crisp, hardy root vegetable and may be sauteed, stewed, braised, grilled, or eaten raw.
Fennel seeds

Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds are often used in Indian and Thai cooking and have an aniseed (liquorice) flavour. They can be dry roasted before using to give a more intense flavour. They are often served roasted at the end of an Indian meal to aid digestion and freshen the mouth.

Fenugreek Leaves (Methi)

 Fenugreek leaves are a common ingredient in dishes from the Indian Subcontinent. A mildly bitter herb, it is believed to have medicinal properties. Dry roasting and crusking dried leaves helps to release more flavour
Fenugreek seeds (Methi)

Fenugreek Seeds (Methi)

Fenugreek seeds have a bitter flavour and are used in many Indian curries either whole or ground.


Although galangal resembles ginger in appearance, it tastes little like ginger. In it’s raw form, galangal has a soapy, earthy aroma and a pine like flavour with a faint hint of citrus. Galangal is used extensively in Thai cooking in it’s raw state.

Five Spice

Five spice is a blend of ground anise, cinnamon, fennel, cloves and dried ginger. The spice is used extensively in Chinese stir fry cooking.

Garam Masala

Garam masala is added to curries very late in the cooking process so as not to destroy the flavour. Garam masala is not a standardised spice mixture. India has many regional variations and even variations particular to certain cooks and households. For a northern variety, place the following ingredients in a spice grinder or mortar and grind to a very fine powder: 1 tblsp black cardamom seeds, 50 mm stick of cinnamon, 1 tsp black cumin seeds, 1 tsp whole cloves, 1 tsp black peppercorns and a quarter of a nutmeg. Store in a jar with a tight fitting lid in a cool dark cupboard.

Garam Masala


Garlic is a close relative of the onion, shallot and leek. It has a characteristic pungent, ‘hot’ flavour that mellows and sweetens considerably with cooking. Used whole the flavour is less pungent than when chopped or minced.



Ginger root, either fresh or dried and ground, is an essential ingredient in Asian cooking which, together with onion and garlic, form the basis of many dishes. Ginger adds a real ‘zing’ to dishes. In it’s fresh root form it can be used sliced (and afterwards removed), finely chopped or grated. "Young ginger" is less piquant than "old ginger".

Green Peppercorns

Green peppercorns are harvested when the berry is immature and then packed in brine. They offer a fresher flavor and less pungency than black or white pepper. These peppercorns go especially well with very fresh or fruity tasting foods. Try them ground on salads, steamed vegetables, salsas, and in sauces.
Green peppercorns

Juniper berries

Juniper Berries

Juniper berries are the fruit of an evergreen conifer shrub but are not true berries as such. The spice derives from a number of varieties and are slightly crushed to release the essential flavouring oils. They are generally used in casseroles and potato, beans and cabbage dishes.

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir lime leaves are aromatic leaves which are used in their fresh or dried form. The leaves impart a sharp lime flavour and are used widely in Indonesia, Thailand and Kampuchea.
Kafir lime leaves
Nigella seeds (Kalonji)

Kalonji (Nigella Seeds)

Kalonji is a small black onion seeds with an earthy aroma used mainly in cooking Indian fish and vegetable dishes. It is also used for some pickling processes and can be sprinkled over some breads prior to baking.


Long Pepper

Long pepper has a taste very similar to black pepper but with more heat. Used either crushed or ground it gives an extra bite to meat stews.

Long pepper

Lemon Grass

Lemon grass is very popular in Thai and Malay dishes giving them an aromatic lemony flavour. Only the lower fibrous stalks are used, usually partly crushed in soups and curries. If used in salads, the stalks are cut into very fine rings.



Marjoram is an aromatic herb that can be used for flavouring stuffing, sausages and stews to give a sweet pine and citrus flavour.

Mint leaves


The mint leaf adds the mint flavour to many dishes, both sweet and savory. The leaves have a pleasant warm, fresh, aromatic, sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste. Fresh mint is preferable to dried mint but it’s shelf life is very short.

Mustard Seeds

Mustard seeds are either dark gray or black. They have a hot aromatic, slightly nutty and bitter flavour. Normally heated in hot oil for a few seconds (until they pop) prior to frying vegetables.
Mustard seeds


Nutmeg is the nut (or seed) of the mace fruit. It is at it’s best when freshly grated and is good for use in egg, cheese and spinach dishes. It is also an essential ingredient in mulled wine.



Oregano is a fragrant herb used extensively in Mediterranean dishes, particularly pizzas and stews. Oregano is also often used in tomato sauces, fried vegetables and grilled meat. Together with basil, it contributes much to the distinctive character of many Italian and Greek dishes.



Paprika is the ground form of the dried paprika bell pepper. It is sweet and colourful and is used in goulashes, soups and stews.


Flat leaf parsley is a bright green biennial herb also used as a spice. It is used for it’s leaf in much the same way as coriander although it has a milder flavour. Dried or fresh, the parsley leaf can be used as an ingredient or garnish for most foods.


Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds are round tiny white or gray seeds with a nutty flavour. They are used in both savory and sweet dishes and sometimes used as a thickening agent. Sugared, milled mature seeds are often eaten with pasta, or they are boiled with milk and used as filling or topping on various kinds of sweet pastry.

Poppy seeds
Rosemary Saffron Sage


Rosemary is a woody perennial herb and a member of the mint family. It has a string aromatic flavour that goes particularly well with chicken, lamb, potatoes and vegetables.


Saffron is probably the most expensive spice in the world although a little goes a long way. Gathered from the stigma of the crocus flower, it gives a creamy, yellow colour to foods and a strong, slightly bitter and pungent sweet scent to many rice dishes. Saffron is one of the three essential ingredients in Spanish paella.


Sage is a powerful herb with a slightly peppery taste and only a little is needed to flavour pork, duck stews and stuffings.

Sesame seeds Sesame seeds Star anise

Sesame Seeds (White)                         Sesame Seeds (Black)

The seeds of the sesame plant are featured in many Asian cuisines. Spice paste concoctions made with sesame seeds enhance Indian dishes, and sesame seeds play a role in Japanese vegetarian cooking. In China, sesame seeds are used to flavour cakes, cookies, and popular desserts such as sesame seed balls and fried custard. White sesame seeds have a nutty flavour (which is enhanced by dry roasting), while black sesame seeds taste more bitter. Whether a recipe calls for white or black seeds often has more to do with the appearance of a dish rather than flavour.  Because sesame seeds contain a high percentage of oil, it's best to store them in the refrigerator.

Star Anise

Star anise closely resembles anise in flavour. It is obtained from the star shaped pericarp of a small native evergreen tree of southwest China. The star shaped fruits are harvested just before ripening.

The hard green pulp of the young tamarind fruit is very tart and acidic and is most often used as a component of savory dishes. The ripened fruit is sweeter, yet still distinctively sour, and can be used in desserts and sweetened drinks, or as a snack. Tamarind is often peeled when ripe and compressed into bricks. To make tamarind paste, tear a block into small pieces and put in a glass bowl with very hot water and leave overnight.
Empty the tamarind into a sieve and squeeze it through with the back of a spoon. Any remaining tamarind in the sieve can be mashed in hot water and sieved again.




Tarragon is a pungent herb used extensively in French cooking. It is excellent for fish and chicken dishes and can also be used in sauces and salad dressings.

Thyme Turmeric


Thyme is a herb with a powerful pungent aroma and generally used in stuffings, stews, roasts and marinades.


Turmeric is related to ginger and has an earthy flavour and a bright orange flesh which gives a distinctive yellow colour to many Indian dishes. The root is commonly dried and ground to a fine powder. It is thought to have digestive and antiseptic qualities.

White peppercorns

White Peppercorns

White peppercorns are the ripe pepper berries which are dried after removing the skins.
They are less aromatic and more subtle than the black peppercorns.



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