Internationally, Indian cuisine is synonymous with “Curries” - a mix of pepper, ginger and turmeric, cumin and coriander forming the base for several dishes across South Asia. Curry powder is the blanket term commonly used in the west today. Even as one of the leading exporters for spices, India imports curry paste valued at a little over one million U.S. dollars.
India is one of the largest producers of spices with about 75 varieties out of the 109 listed by the International Organization for Standardization. Across the country, diverse regions specialize in their own variety of spices ranging from pepper, cardamom, coriander and cumin to ginger, garlic, turmeric and chili, and several in between.
One of the essentials of an Indian kitchen is the “masala dabba”- a traditional spice box. It typically consists of small cups (usually five or seven) containing spices that are used in daily cooking. Whether it’s a soupy south Indian Rasam, a snack time Gujarati Dhokla, a sumptuous dessert in the Bengali Mishti Doi or the traditional tea in the Kashmiri Kahwa, spices are widely used in all parts of the country, across various courses in a meal, vegetarian or otherwise.