Food Operations - Indian Masalas & Gravies

Secret of happiness is variety. But secret of variety like the secret of all spices is knowing when to use it.
…Daniel Gilbert, American Social Psychologist and Writer 

There is a common string connecting all Indian cuisines though; and that is: the spices. Indian cuisines are incomplete without spices.
Indian masalas or the spice mixes are the hearts of cooking stews and curries. They provide taste and aroma to lentils, veg and non-veg stews, curries, and rice dishes. What’s more, the Indian street food is also treated with spices. The masalas are prepared with the intention of balancing hot and tangy taste of the food.

Indian Masalas

The dry masalas (powdered spice mixes or curry powders) are used to flavor lentils, vegetables, seafood, and meat. The ingredients are roasted over low heat until they release a faint aroma. A fine powder is made and they are stored in an airtight container.
Some of the popular spice mixes used in Indian cuisines are given here −

Biryani Masala

It is used for savory spiced colorful and flavorful rice.
Fennel Seeds50 gmBlack Cardamoms10 gm
White Poppy Seeds40 gmStar Anise10 gm
Cumin Seeds30 gmCaraway Seeds10 gm
Cinnamon Powder30 gmBay Leaves10 gm
Whole Cloves20 gmMace10 gm
Green Cardamoms20 gmNutmegPowder of 2/4 piece

Chhole Masala

It is used for chick pea curry.
Coriander Seeds2 tbspCloves4-5
Cinnamon1” pieceCumin Seeds2 tbsp
Black Cardamom3-4 podsAnardana (optional)1 tbsp
Bay Leaf1Whole Dry Chilies (optional)1 or 2
Black Peppercorns1 tbsp

Coastal Fish Masala

It is used for fish curry and fish fry.
Dry Coconut Grated3 tbspWhite Pepper Corns¼ cup
Sesame Seeds1 tbspGreen Cardamom Pods½ cup
Mustard Seeds2 tblspCumin Seeds¾ cup
Saffron Strands¼ tbspNutmeg Powder¼ cup
Black Pepper Corns¼ cup

Garam Masala

It is a usual spice mix used in stews.
Coriander seeds4 tbspBlack Cardamom3-4 large pods
Cumin seeds1 tbspCloves2-3 pieces
Black Peppercorns1 tbspCinnamon2 × 1” pieces
Black Cumin seeds1 ½ tbspBay Leaves2 Crushed
Dry Ginger Powder1 ½ tbsp

Kala (Goda) Masala

It is used to flavor lentils and Masala Rice.
Coriander Seeds500 gmMace Flower50 gm
Dry Red Chilies250 gmCinnamon Bark50 gm
Dry Coconut shredded250 gmWhite Poppy Seeds50 gm
Dry Turmeric Roots50 gmCaraway Seeds50 gm
Asafoetida Chunks50 gmSesame Seeds50 gm
Cloves50 gmSesame Seeds50 gm
Black Pepper Corns50 gmBay Leaves50 gm
Flower Stone50 gmGreen Cardamom25 gm
Whole Nutmegs5 piecesBlack Cardamom25 gm
Indian Masalas

Meat Masala

It is used to flavor chicken and lamb dishes.
Cumin Seeds20 gmGinger Powder5 gm
Coriander Seeds8 gmGarlic Powder5 gm
Cloves5 gmRed Chili Powder5 gm
Cinnamon2” StickTurmeric Powder5 gm
Orange food coloring1 gmMace Powder5 gm
Salt5 gm

Pao-Bhaji Masala

It is used in a tangy stew paired with pao (bun-shaped bread).
Red Chili50 gmBlack Cardamom4-5 pieces
Coriander Seeds50 gmDry Mango Powder25 gm
Cumin Seeds25 gmFennel Seeds10 gm
Black Pepper25 gmTurmeric Powder1 tbsp
Cinnamon25 gmStar Anise2 pieces
Clove25 gm

Rajmah Masala

It is used to spice kidney beans curry.
Cloves4 piecesBlack Peppercorns4 pieces
Cardamom2 piecesCumin Seeds1 tbsp
Cinnamon Stick1” stickCumin Powder1 tbsp
Bay leaf1 pieceGinger Garlic Paste1 tbsp
Coriander Powder1 ½ tbspGaram Masala Powder½ tbsp
Red Chili Powder1 tbspDry Mango Powder½ tbsp

Sambar Masala

It is used to flavor a curry named Sambar; prepared with cooked pigeon peas, drumsticks, tomatoes, pumpkin pieces, and cubes of other vegetables. Sambar is paired with Idli, Urad wada, Uthapam, or various types of Dosai.
Chana Daal¼ cupBlack Peppercorns¼ cup
Urad Daal (black gram)¼ cupDry Red Broken Chili¼ cup
Coriander Seeds½ cupDry Grated Coconut¼ cup
Cumin Seeds¼ cupMustard Seeds¼ cup
Fenugreek Seeds¼ cupTurmeric Powder2 tbsp
Dried Curry Leaves20 piecesAsafetida Powder2 tbsp

Tea Masala

It is used to prepare flavored tea.
Black Cardamom1 podBlack Peppercorns¼ tbsp
Cardamom SeedsFrom 25 podsDry, Ground Ginger Powder1 tbsp
Cloves4 piecesGround Cinnamon Powder1 tbsp
Fennel seeds½ tbspCarom Seeds (optional)¼ tbsp
There is a very large variety of spice mixes for side dishes such as curd based salad named Raita, appetizers such as Jal-Jeera and Chhach, sweet flavored milk named Thandai, and Indian street food named Chaat.
There are also some other spices such as pickle masala, a combination of five spices named panch-poran used in eastern states of India. The list goes on according to the taste preferences and diversity in cultures.

Basic Indian Gravies

Gravy is the soul of Indian cuisine. Gravy is a thick liquid of saucy consistency that provides body and flavor to the curries and other food preparation. It provides the basic five tastes − bitter, hot, sweet, sour, and salty. In this section, we will discuss some popular gravies −

White Gravy

A basic gravy that adds body to the curries.
Ingredients −
Chopped Onions300 gmGreen Cardamom2 pieces
Cashew nuts200 gmBay leaves2 pieces
Water200 mlChopped Green Chilies2
Ginger-Garlic Paste25 gmOil5 tbsp
Sweet Yogurt200 gm
Preparation −
  • Put cashew nuts in boiling water for five minutes.
  • Drain the water and put fresh water and chopped onions into it.
  • Cook till onions turn soft.
  • Drain the water and grind to fine paste.
  • Heat oil in a wok.
  • Add cardamoms, bay leaves, and chopped green chili.
  • Add yogurt into it and cook for a while.
  • Add cashew nut-onion paste and cook further till oil separates.
  • Cut the heat and let it cool for storing.
A variation named Yellow Gravy is prepared by adding turmeric and saffron and replacing green chili with yellow chili.

Red Gravy

It is tomato based gravy that introduces sour taste.
Ingredients −
Tomatoes1kgGinger Garlic Paste20 gm
Onions500 gmGaram Masala10 gm
Tomato Puree250 ml
Chili Powder30 gm
Preparation −
  • Boil tomatoes by adding onions and whole Garam Masala till they turn soft.
  • Blend them together till smooth.
  • Add ginger-garlic paste, salt, red chili powder, and tomato puree in this mixture.
  • Boil the mixture for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Yet another version of this gravy called Makhani Gravy is prepared with addition of butter 100 gm, 200 ml cream, and 2 tbsp fenugreek powder.

Brown Gravy

It is used as a base for preparation of meat curries.
Ingredients −
Chopped Onions1 kgRed Chili Powder30 gm
Tomatoes500 gmTomato Puree200 ml
Garam Masala5 gmOil5 tbsp
Preparation −
  • Heat oil in a pan.
  • Add Garam Masala, chopped onion into it and cook till the onion turns brown and translucent.
  • Add red chili powder, tomatoes, and tomato puree.
  • Cook on medium heat till the tomatoes leave water.
  • Grind this mixture into fine paste.

Shahi Gravy

This gravy is used in gourmet Indian cuisine.
Ingredients −
Cashew nut200 gmOnions50 gm
Almonds75 gmGreen Cardamom Powder5 gm
Poppy Seeds25gmBay Leaves2
Ginger-Garlic paste10gmGaram Masala1 tbsp
Oil4 tbsp
Preparation −
  • Boil cashew and poppy seeds together.
  • Boil onion and almonds separately.
  • Grind them to fine pastes.
  • Take oil in a frypan.
  • Add Garam Masala, bay leaves, and cardamom powder.
  • Add all pastes except cashew-poppy seeds paste.
  • Cook for a while on low heat by stirring occasionally.
  • Add cashew-poppy seeds paste.
  • Cook further for a couple of minutes and cut the heat.
  • Yet another version of Shahi Gravy called Korma Gravy is prepared using 1 cup dried solid milk (Khoya) and 1 cup yogurt.

Green Gravy

This gravy is used in gourmet Indian veg and non-veg cuisine. Its main ingredient is coconut.
Ingredients −
Fresh grated coconut2 cupsFresh Chopped Cilantro with stems1 cup
Green Chilies4 piecesMint (Optional)¼ cup
Salt½ tbsp.Ginger1 ½” piece
Preparation −
  • Put all the ingredients in a blender.
  • Grind to fine paste of thick consistency by adding a little water.

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