Spices 101

Veteran chef and restaurateur Seelan Sundoo’s Sea Point spot, Sundoo Indian Tapas & Bar, reflects his Keralan roots. Sundoo is a great place to go for perfectly spiced south Indian food. The seafood and vegetarian dishes are especially good. We asked Seelan to share his top 10 essential spices with us: Turmeric Not just colourful, but very good for you too, turmeric lends its earthy fragrance to a wide variety of curries and other dishes. Cumin An important seed in Indian cooking for its health benefits – and its nutty and peppery flavour. Coriander Very aromatic, with citrus notes, coriander seeds are probably one of the most commonly used spices in the Indian spice rack. Chillies Spicy Indian food is mostly a southern Indian phenomenon, but the rest of the country also enjoys a fair bit of heat. Cloves Did you know that cloves are actually flowers that have been pressed and dried? They add warmth and sweetness to both sweet and savoury dishes. Saffron This vibrant, thread-like spice has to be harvested by hand, making it very expensive – but worth it. Cardamom There are two types of cardamom: green and black. Green is the more popular variety, appearing in many spice mixes and desserts. Black pepper Black pepper is native to India (from the Western Ghats and Malabar area) and, interestingly, a rather difficult spice to grow. Nutmeg & mace Nutmeg is the seed of the tree, while the pungent mace is the reddish covering on the seeds. Fenugreek This lesser-known spice gives Madras curry powder its characteristic earthy flavour. Fenugreek leaves (fresh and dried) are widely used in Indian cookery too. --- Find Sundoo Indian Tapas & Bar at Shop 6, La Rhone, 77 Regent Road, Sea Point. Visit for more. Read about two other restaurants that are pioneering a new chapter in Indian food in South Africa on page 100 of the March 2017 issue of House and Leisure.