Food Glossary

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is a seed that is very strong in flavor similar to caraway, raw ajwain smells similar to thyme. Ajwain seeds look like a smaller fatter version of cumin seeds. In Indian cooking this seed is almost never used raw but is usually roasted or cooked in ghee.


is a variety of Ferula which is a native plant of Iran. Hing can be purchased either in a pure hard gum or a powder that is mixed with some type of flour. This spice has a very strong and pungent aroma before cooking and is best stored in a completely airtight container. Once cooked, hing assumes a pleasant leek-like aroma.

Basmati rice

is an aromatic long grained rice traditionally grown in the foothills of the Himalayas. Basmati rice can be bought either brown with the bran and germ intact or white. Basmati rice is not a sticky rice.


is prepared and unprepared food which has not yet been offered to Krishna.

Black Salt

is specific type of Indian mineral salt that is purplish in color and has a sulfurous taste. Black salt is also called Kala Namak and is used in Chaats and Chaat Masala among other things.

Brown rice

is rice that has not been processed to remove the bran and germ. This rice is a little healthier than white rice as it is an intact whole grain.


is native to India, this spice is used around the world. Green and black cardamom are the two varieties that are commonly found. Cardamom is used in many different recipes including masala chai, desserts, rices and breads.

Chapatti flour

also known as Atta flour this is a wheat flour that is typically used for making chapatti, paratha, naan and other Indian flat breads.


is a dried seed that is used as a spice in cooking around the world. This seed comes from a plant that is a member of the parsley family. Cumin is used both as a whole seed and ground. When whole, cumin is a light brown color and is shaped like a tiny, skinny football. Ground cumin is a medium brown color and very fragrant.

Curry leaves

are leaves of the curry tree which is native to India. These leaves are used in a variety of dishes. In Indian dishes curry leaves are typically added to the chaunk and cooked for a bit.

Curry Powder

is a mixture of spices typically including coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, mustard, fenugreek, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, chile peppers. This variety of spices are ground together to make a powder mix. Curry powder can be bought already made or can be made at home.


is also known as cilantro, this plant is used for its seeds, leaves and roots. Coriander seeds are smallish round and light brown in color. Coriander seeds are also used ground as a powder. Leaves of the coriander plant are often used as a garnish in many Indian dishes.

Garam Masala

is a spice blend that when translated word for word means “hot mixture”. Typically garam masala is made from black/white peppercorns, cloves, Malabar leaves, long pepper, black cumin, cumin seeds, cinnamon, black, brown and green cardamom, nutmeg, star anise and coriander. This spice blend can be bought pre-ground and mixed or can be made a home.


is a clear golden color when liquid at room temperature and a yellow color when cold and solid. Ghee is clarified butter or butter that has been slowly simmered to separate out the proteins and solids. Often, because of its high smoking temperature, ghee is used in a similar way to oil for frying and sautéing among others.


is a tuber that is used in cooking and also in home remedies. Ginger can be purchased fresh, dried, ground and candied. Ginger is used in both savories and desserts. Ginger is used extensively in Indian cooking.


is a small black seed of the Nigella sativa plant. This spice is used in a variety of Bengali dishes and also in Naan bread. Kalonji is sometimes erroneously called onion seeds.


the literal translation of masala is mixture and there are many, many different masala available. Some examples of these masala are chaat masala, chai masala and garam masala. Many of these masala are available ready made in most Indian grocery stores but can also be made at home.


is a bean that is native to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This bean is used whole, split with the skin and also split with the skin removed. The dried whole beans can be used to make sprouts and also in a dahl or soup.


is used in the form of a seed, powder, oil, paste and greens which are all a product of the mustard plant. Mustard seeds are small balls a little bigger than a poppy seed and are either black, brown or white. Mustard powder is typically yellow and a little spicy. Mustard is used in anything from salad dressings to Indian sabji.


is a homemade fresh cheese which is made by adding a curdling agent (usually lemon juice) to boiling milk to curdle it. This cheese has a delicate flavor and is not suitable for melting.


is food (usually prepared food) that has been sanctified by offering it to Krishna. This offered food can also be referred to as Prasad.


is a delicate spice that is the stigma of a special type of crocus. Saffron is a very expensive spice which imparts color and flavor to the dishes to which it is added. Due to the different grades of saffron available, it is very important to only purchase saffron from a reputable dealer. Saffron is a wonderful spice but should be used sparingly.


is an evergreen tree which produces brown fruit in a pod. The fruit is both sweet and sour to the taste and is used in cooking. Tamarind can be used for drinks, sweets and savories and is delicious.


is a full Indian meal usually served on a steel plate with little bowls. This meal usually consists of rice, dhal, some bread, a vegetable and a small sweet but can vary due to regional variations.


is also known as pigeon peas. Toor dahl is one of the most popular dahl varieties in India and is used to make sambhar and a variety of other dahls.


usually used as a powder made from the root of a plant from the ginger family. Turmeric is believed by many to have medicinal properties. Turmeric is also used as a natural coloring to dye things yellow.


is a bean that is native to India. When this bean is whole with the skin on it is black but when the skin is removed it is white. Urad is used to make dahl and also dosa, idly, papadum and vada.


is the rejection of animal products both for eating and wearing. Vegans will typically not wear any leather and not eat any animal products including honey and all milk products.

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