Holy Basil - Tulasi - Ocimum Sanctum
It is a sacred plant for the Hindus. They plant it in their homes to bring happiness to the family. Basil has lots of medicinal properties. The leaves have a sweet aromatic smell. Its tender fresh leaves are used as garnishing. Dried and crushed the leaves are used mainly in Italian tomato sauces giving a sweet scented, minty aroma. It is also used to make very tasty cold drinks.
Ginger - Adrak
It is a very popular spice used in Indian cooking. It has a tan skin and a flesh that ranges in color from pale greenish yellow to ivory. The flavor is peppery and slightly sweet, while the aroma is pungent and spicy. If you feel a cold coming on a fresh piece of ginger in a hot cup of Indian tea usually does the trick. Fresh unpeeled ginger root, tightly wrapped, can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks and frozen for up to 6 months. Please do not use dried ground ginger for dishes specifying fresh ginger as the flavors differ greatly.
Saffron - Kesar
Saffron threads as they are also called are orange-red dried stigmas of a small purple flower called the Crocus Sativus. Saffron's aroma is unique and there is no substitute for it. It is used in cooking to flavor and color the dish a wonderful golden yellow color. In Indian cooking it is highly prized and added to many Indian sweets and "special occasion" savory dishes like Biryani, Pulaos and even some curries.
Turmeric - Haldi
Turmeric has a very intense, bright yellow-orange color and bitter taste. It is used in almost all vegetarian and non-vegetarian preparations in Indian coking. It has been known to have antiseptic properties.
Almonds - Badaam
A Royal nut ! Almonds are oval nuts with a mellow, sweet flavor, sold whole or cut into slivers or slices, and are available blanched (skinless). Almonds are used a lot in the Mogul style of cooking in North India. Almonds combine successfully with Indian savory dishes as well as in Indian sweets, like ice creams, halwas, confectioneries. Almonds are also used to thicken gravies and as a "special garnish".
Pomegranate - Anar
A sweet and sour delicious fruit. Cut the fruit into half. Peel the dry skin. The interior of the pomegranate fruit is composed of many white seeds covered with a red or pink pulp-like tissue which has a fresh sweet and sour pleasant taste. You can eat the seeds and pulp as a fruit. Use the seeds in a fruit salad.
Black Cardomon - Badi Elaichi
Black Cardamom pods are the larger brown pods. Essential to Indian cooking and native to southwestern India. This spice is coarser in flavor and larger in size than the green cardamom. It is used in flavoring meat, poultry and rice dishes. When using the whole cardamom for flavoring dishes, remove the cardamom before serving as it does not taste good when bitten into.
Coriander Seeds - Dhania
Coriander seeds are round and have fine longitudinal ridges. The seeds have a sweet heady aroma and mild, distinctive taste similar to a blend of lemon and sage. Coriander is not inter-changeable with coriander leaves, although they are from the same plant. The seeds are used whole and /or are ground into a powder for use. Seen here are both the coriander/cilantro leaves as well as the coriander seeds.
Asafoetida - Hing
It is the dried gum resin of an east Indian plant. It has a strong odor and the flavor is a little like "spicy garlic". Do not attempt to taste it raw, not a pleasant experience! Although do not be afraid to try using it in the recommended recipe. Usually just a pinch is used for cooking mainly fish, vegetables and making "Indian pickles". It is available in a yellow powdered form. Look for "Vandevi Hing" TM in an ethnic grocery store or on-line.
Golden Raiains - Kishmish
Golden Raisins are sulfured before they are dried so that they retain their yellow golden color. These are generously used in many of the Indian sweets or desserts like Kheer and also used in many pulaos.
The flesh is grated and used not only as a garnish but in many Indian sweets and many curies. Sweet coconut water is a very refreshing natural drink. The dried coconut is grated and ground into many "masalas" or also used in pieces and in savory dishes. Out here in the US look for UNSWEETENED dry grated coconut. Add just enough water so that the dry coconut is covered with water. Use as directed in the recipe instead of freshly grated coconut. Making chutneys will be a breeze.