What do I have in my pantry? This is a question I get asked regularly.

Most Indian pantries have a range of similar spices, although a few bits and pieces would be different. I am from South India, so I would have a few different spices compared to a North Indian.

India is such a varied country, that even in the South of India, every village could have their own version of a sambar powder!

So, if you have ever travelled in India, you would know that if you travel 20 kms in one direction, the cuisine could change!

Just like the dialects as well. There are more than 400 languages spoken in India – and so many more dialects than that.

Mind-boggling, isn’t it?

What I have only recently discovered is that my Indian pantry need not only be used in Indian dishes!

Here are 5 essentials I can’t do without. These are an absolute ‘must-have’ if you want to create an authentic South-Indian dish.

There are so many more that you need, but these will form the foundation of your South Indian pantry.

Coriander – coriander has many benefits. It draws out toxins, contains Vitamins A, C and K, contains magnesium (it’s calming and an antidepressent), it is antimicrobial (it fights food poisoning), lowers cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure…It is used in ayurveda to regulate periods.

Sambar powder – Together, all the spices in this mix can pack a powerful punch.

It is good for TB, chronic coughs, diabetes, arthritis, it is anti-cancer, contains fibre, healps with constipation and breastfeeding.

It contains antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, antifungals and antibacterials.

This spice blend helps with reduction of cholesterol, reducing menopause symptoms and can also help to lose weight.

Go here for the recipe to make your own sambar powder.

Asafoetida helps to reduce asthma, blood pressure, treating IBS, controlling blood sugar, etc.

It smells like trumps but tastes divine. I think it gives any dish that oomph factor.

You can buy this in any Indian store, however read ingredients very carefully as they contain wheat. Buy organic where you can – these don’t have any GMO fillers.

Mustard seeds – Did you know that the teeny little seeds contain the essential omega-3 fatty acid?

It is also an excellent source of selenium which helps with heart health, decreasing the incidence of cancer, boosting your immunity, helps with healthy thyroid function and helps to reduce asthma symptoms.

Curry leaves – They contain calcium, phosphorus, niacin, Vitamin C and iron. They help to reduce cholesterol levels and manage type 2 diabetes.

They help to reduce the effects of chemotherapy, is good for the eyes, it protects your liver, is anti bacterial, anti fungal, an antioxidant, helps to prevent cancer and is good for your hair and skin.

Got a burn? Reach for the curry leaves. The paste, if applied topically, can help with burns, stings and bites.

So if you are thinking of cooking a bit of South Indian food, but are daunted by the idea of letting your spices sit in the cupboard as food for the moths instead of your family – don’t be. Start by getting these 5 essentials and go from there.


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