The Different Techniques For Using Spices In A Dish

Spices don't only play around with your taste buds; they are also loaded with an impressive amount of essential oils, nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are needed for your overall well-being.

Spices have been an integral part of cooking for centuries and have excelled in their culinary importance.

So are you on the hunt for finding different ways to add flavor to your dishes without using too much salt or spice? If you are a foodie and want top-notch flavorful food, you must know how the different techniques of using spices to get the perfect umami, sweet, bitter, sour, or salty flavor.

Let us delve into the world of spices and see the wonders that these healing foods contain:

Different Flavors Of Spices: 

Every spice has its own unique flavor that it imparts into the dish. Let’s look at the different flavoring characteristics of various spices:

  • Bitter: Bitter flavor isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and is mostly an acquired taste. So which spices impart a bitter flavor to the dishes they are incorporated into? Cumin, Ajwain, Thyme, Star anise, Turmeric, and Oregano top this list.
  • Spicy: One of the most exciting flavors is the spicy one. It is famous for its ability to set your mouth, tongue, and stomach on fire. The spiciest spices are red chilli powder, black pepper, and paprika.
  • Sour: Many people are fans of sour dishes. Sour flavors tend to go very well with sweet foods when added in the perfect balance. Sour spices include Tamarind, Amchur, and kokum.
  • Sweet: Sweet flavor is one of the most sought after, especially by people who have a sweet tooth. This flavor is usually paired with salty and sour foods to get the perfect taste. Spices that impart a sweet flavor include nutmeg, cinnamon, Anise, Fennel, poppy seed, Green cardamom, and caraway.
  • Savory/Umami: The savory flavor offers a pleasant or meaty taste that is long-lasting. The spices that pack the perfect punch of umami in a dish are asafoetida, smoked paprika, and various herbs like thyme and sage. 

Different Ways Of Using Spices

We all know grinding the whole spices at home instead of purchasing prepackaged ones is the best way to get maximum flavor and aroma from your spices. 

However, there are many ways you can use spices to bring different levels of flavor. Here are some of the best ways a foodie must know:

Blooming Spices In Oil: 

It is common practice to grind whole spices to achieve a maximum level of flavor; however, blooming your spices will take your meal to a whole new level. There is a chemical and a physical reason for frying your ground spices in hot oil.

For starters, spices like coriander and cumin release their flavor once they are heated in oil. Secondly, the taste of individual spices is effectively released into your meal when fried in oil.

It is all about layering all the ingredients properly. When using onions, add them to the oil first and allow them to soften. Then toss in your spices and let them splutter for 30 seconds to make them release their flavor. 

Tip to remember: Ground spices end up burning very quickly, so it is best to be on the lookout once they touch the oil. Be prepared to throw in water or any liquid to avoid burning.        

Infused Oil:  

Making flavor infused oil is relatively easy, and the final product adds an intense flavor to your dish. You can use these infused oils rather than spices and add instant flavor to your veggies and meat. These oils make a perfect base for marinades, salad dressings, and various sauces.

There are two easy yet simple ways of achieving this process, i.e., hot and cold. Make sure you begin with a tasteless, light oil such as canola. Olive oil works as the perfect base for a few herbs; however, it tends to become rancid rather quickly. Make sure you store your infused oils in the refrigerator. 

Pro tip: Olive oil infused oil lasts around a month, whereas others will last you around two months.

Marination With Spices:

Marination is another way of infusing maximum flavor to a dish by making a marinade and then soaking proteins and vegetables in it before cooking. The marinade is made by mixing oil or yogurt with the desired spices and other ingredients. This flavorful combo adds immense flavor and helps in tenderizing the food.  

The following are the universally applied rules of marinating various foods.

  • Tofu: 1 - 12 hours.
  • Lamb and beef: 2 - 24 hours.
  • Fruits and veggies: 30 minutes - 2 hours.
  • Pork and chicken: 2 - 12 hours.
  • Fish and seafood: 30 minutes to 2 hours. 

Toasted Spices

Whether you are using ground spices or whole, there is always one vital step that releases the flavor into your dish to a maximum. Since the purpose of adding spices is to increase your dish's taste, you need to know the proper method of maximizing the seasoning. This is where toasting comes in; spices that are toasted make a stark difference and add excitement and flavor to any meal they are incorporated into. 

If you are incorporating whole spices, add them in a dry pan while maintaining medium heat. Toast them until they release their aroma. To avoid burning your spices, regularly shake your pan. 

If you are using ground spices, simply mix them in stock, vinegar, or any other liquid that you are using. Add this mixture to your cooking pan with preheated oil and cook until all the liquid evaporates. 

Tip: Toast different spices separately as each spice will brown at its own pace.  

Tempering The Spices: 

Tempering is also known as 'tadka' which is a traditional method used in Pakistani/Indian cuisine. It involves heating ground or whole spices in hot ghee or oil and then adding this mixture as a garnish to a dish.

This process effectively extracts and retains the flavor, aroma, and essence of the spices and helps pass it onto the respective dish. Tempering of spices is done sometimes at the start or as a final touch at the end. 

Final Words:

No matter what spice you are using, each has a distinct quality, taste, and flavor that it imparts to a dish. There are so many ways that you can use to incorporate these healing foods into any meal you are making.

Whether you are toasting them, grinding them, blooming, or using them as a marinade, these spices will add immense flavor and luxury to any meal they are a part of.