Whole Spice blend for Tempering ~ Basics!

Its back to basics today! When I started cooking almost a decade back, I was so curious when I scouted Amma's kitchen. Of course, my earlier visits were just restricted to enjoying a quick breakfast or snacks. Never ventured beyond the realms of finding out what's in those small boxes Amma had piled up. And then of course, there is that fact that as most fashionable trends in learning cooking, I started with baking and high cut themes. Making Dal or Sambar was too low for me or it was not even something I considered I should even attempt!

So when I finally faced a situation, when I had to dish out a sambar, I was faced with the most complex factor. How did I think making dal or sambar was so easy to prepare. Faced with these facts, I realized that I had to include so many other things, to finally get what a sambar makes. That's when I was introduced to those small boxes that Amma has next to her stove. All those ready mixes that are helpful in doing the Tadka or seasoning or Tempering or poppu as we call it.. Apart from that she also has lot of powdered stuffs, stored for a week or so. Basically all the posts in the series follow what Amma has in her pantry, and which I have continued in mine.

One such very important is the mix of spices or the ingredients used for seasoning in South Indian dals or Sambar. When I read about Panch Phoran, I was surprised that, that mix has a name, while we just refer that as seasoning. When I read more about it, I was intrigued on how close and yet so far away, each regional cuisines are.

Panch phoran is an Indian spice blend typically consisting of five whole spices in equal measure and used in Oriya or Bengali cuisine.

Panch Phoran has Fenugreek (methi), Nigella seed (kalonji), Mustard seed or (rai or shorshe), Fennel seed (saunf or mouri), and Cumin seed (jira).

Whereas the South Indian version has Mustard, Urad, Cumin and Fenugreek. In our kitchen, this mix of these spices is a must. We use it for tempering Sambars. Though this mix is not in equal portions. This forms the most basic of stuffs that needs to be around when you are going to make sambar!

We make about a cup having about 50 gms of Mustard and store for a week or so, depending on our usage! I am giving in smaller measures for more clear picture.

South Indian Spice Mix for Sambar

Mustard Seeds - 2 tbsp
Urad Dal - 1 tbsp
Cumin Seeds - 1 tbsp
Fenugreek - 1/2 tbsp

Fenugreek is not added more and also care should be taken while tempering with this. This tends to turn bitter if over cooked.

For Dals

Mustard Seeds - 2 tbsp
Urad Dal - 1 tbsp
Cumin Seeds - 1 tbsp

Have these mixed and ready to pick. When you are ready to use this, shuffle the box well so that the spices are mixed again. The spice mix is added depending on the quantity of Sambar made. For about 75 gms of Tuvur Dal or making for 4 persons, use about 3/4 tsp of this mix.

Make small batches and store. Mix and use when needed.

This Spice blend is a part of my series on Essentials for Basic Indian Cooking! Having these ready at hand, makes Indian cooking a little easier task!

I welcome suggestions and thoughts on this series. If you have any other ideas on how to make this series better, feel free to share them with me!