Q & A

Why do Indians fry their spices?

Frying spices means roasting or sautéing spices. There are two methods of doing such. Each form of “frying” spices does technically does the same thing. Let’s take a look at the ways you can “fry” spices.

  • Flash Frying
    • This method quickly extracts and disperses flavor of spices, basically making a flavored oil. Use this method when you are dealing with complex flavors like asofoetida (hing). Asofoetida has a very unpleasant taste but gives a very nice aroma if the oil is flavored with it. Also very useful when using spices intact as opposed to ground up.  NOTE: If you have a really bad tummy ache and/or some sort of infection that has started in the stomach asofoetida (hing) is your golden ticket to feeling better. Simply mix water and hing to make a paste and heat it up in the microwave (if you do not have a microwave, warm water and then add hing)…apply this paste on your tummy consistently, twice a day (once in morning and once in evening). Your infection and pain will be gone in no time.
  • Tempering (Also known as Tadka)
    • This method differs in that you temper at the end of cooking and put it in only after the dish is entirely cooked. The above process is done at the beginning. I like to use a huge spoon such as this one.
    • You can temper things such as powdered spices, cumin seeds, red dry chillies, mustard seeds, grated ginger or garlic, bay leaves or cloves. Not all of them together, of course though.
    • You don’t need lots of oil.  One or two tablespoons is plenty
    • The whole process only takes a few seconds, so make sure you are prepared before you start.
    • The oil or ghee should be very hot at first, then reduced to medium, then add the spices. You know the oil is hot enough when you can see a slight shimmer.
    • You will know your tempering is done when the spices are crackling or have changed colour.  Make sure if you are using cumin or mustard seeds you let them pop in the oil.
    • If you burn the spices, you’ll have to throw your mixture out and start again, as the burnt flavour will ruin your whole dish.  The key to tempering is heat control.
    • As you add more ingredients the temperature in your pot will start to drop, so you may need to add more heat.
    • Don’t temper fresh herbs, rather add them at the end of the cooking process directly to the dish.

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