Punjabi Spices at The Dhaba
When thinking about seriously spiced food, Indian cuisine immediately comes to mind. Many other regions and cultures have local spice blends, like berbere in Ethiopia and five-spice powder in China, but in no other country do the spices rule the kitchen. Try to imagine an Indian dish that doesn't have spices. Not coming up with anything? There's good reason for that.
Photo by Dayvid LeMmon Tandoori Khazana
Spices are deeply embedded in Indian culture. They even played an instrumental role in India's economy. Since ancient times, people have made the long trek to India, lured by exotic spices. Remember Christopher Columbus? He accidentally discovered America while trying to find a quicker way to get to India's expensive, highly sought after spices. It's no stretch to say that Indians are proud of their spices, and that's pretty clear by their regular use of 10+ spices in a single recipe.
Trying to follow spices in an Indian kitchen can get complicated real fast, and it gets even more difficult when breaking apart the vast regional differences. We're lucky to have a few places in the Valley that specialize in regional Indian foods, helping diners delineate the many varieties of Indian food. Local favorite The Dhaba brings us Punjabi flavors from North India, including a lot of onion, garlic, and ginger. Punjabi is the most commonly served - and therefore most recognizable - type of Indian cuisine in the U.S. and U.K., so it's a great place to begin familiarizing yourself with Indian spices.
"Tandoori" is one of the words that sticks in everyone's mind after their first taste of Indian food. It's actually the name for the clay oven (tandoor) from which delicious baked chickens and other succulent meats emerge. The oven is also the reason why naan gets so crispy on the outside; the flatbread is stuck on the tandoor's clay sides to bake. However, Tandoori chicken and other tasty meats, like seekh kebab and prawns, cannot be made by simply tossing them in the magical oven. The Dhaba's Tandoori spice blend, for example, contains cumin, coriander, chili, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and more. Believe it or not, those seven spices are just the main flavors. For all of the spices it has, the flavor's not overpowering at all, making the Tandoori Khazana platter a great introduction to Indian spices for apprehensive taste buds.