Herbal Spices: What's On Your Turntable?

| 9/10/2009 3:19:21 PM


A while back I was at my friend’s house trying a recipe for buttered chicken that her sister-in law had recommended. I love cooking with friends because the food always turns out better than when I cook it alone. Before we began our gourmet adventure she pulled out a compact, circular tin. Inside it had seven identical, smaller containers each with a different spice. 

I was intrigued by this cute little container and asked her where she got it. As she dished out some salt with a miniature spoon, she explained that her mother had given it to her when she moved into her own apartment. Then she told me what each of them held: curry powder, red chili powder, chaat masala, jira or cumin seed, haldi or turmeric, salt and pepper. It’s called a masala dabba, and while you’ll find one in practically every kitchen in India, its contents are rarely the same.

Masala Dabba 1
Photo by escribirconlacabeza/Courtesy Flickr

My friend’s story remindeMad me of the red, plastic spice rack my mom and I got at a garage sale when I moved in to my first apartment. My mom was sure that I needed one. I was skeptical at first, but now I really appreciate it. She helped me fill up the containers with thyme, basil, tarragon, coriander, cumin, ginger and turmeric.

(What is the difference between an herb and a spice?)