Mom’s Magic Masala Powders


Indian cooking is both an art and a science. It is as much about mixing and experimenting with different flavours, as it is about precise quantities and ingredients-in-recipes that cannot be altered.

Indian cooking is about flavour, culture, local produce and the local weather. It is also about blending, grinding and pounding techniques that are used to extract ‘that’ perfect flavour!

But more than anything else, Indian cooking is about the hundreds of masalas and spices that are added to make each dish unique.

A lot of cooking happens in Indian homes. This whole cooking phenomenon in Indian homes rests on a very strong base.

What is this base, you may ask? It is what I choose to call “Moms’ Masala Network”.

If you visited my home and raved about my spicy potato curry or my onion sambar, I would probably tell you that both the sambar powder and the spicy powder mix I used for the potatoes, were home made; made by my mother.

Go to any Indian home, ask the lady of the house, and her best dishes will be those ones, where her mom or grandmom have made the masala powders at home; if not made by them, the recipes that she uses would be theirs, for sure!

My refrigerator has at least ten types of these masala powders.

However, of these, three masala powders are most precious, as my mom makes them at home and gives them to me.

Every summer, when the Indian sun is roasting everything in sight, my mom shops for the ingredients for sambar powder, rasam powder and chutney powder.

She reserves a day to do the shopping. She sun-dries the ingredients, roasts them and then gives them to a small mill in the neighbourhood, where the ingredients are ground to fine powder.

My mom sends huge steel containers to the mill. Once the powders make it home, she carefully packs them in huge zip-loc bags for her three daughters.

On each package is a small sticker label, which gives details about the type of powder and the date on which it was made.

I treasure these masala powders, because my kitchen runs on their strength and their flavour.

A yummy South Indian breakfast of idli or dosa is incomplete without my mom’s chutney powder. On a typical Sunday afternoon, the kitchen is filled with the aroma of onion sambar, thanks to my mom.

These products are available in the market, but the taste of mom’s masala powders cannot ever be matched.

Thank you, Amma.

Cool fragrance


We Indians love our kitchen masalas and powders. These powders are typically eaten with hot, boiled or steamed rice and a dash of ghee (clarified butter). There is a whole range available to choose from – coriander powder, curry leaf powder, lentil powder and many other delicious flavours.

One of my friends recently went to India, and picked up a selection of these powders for me.

After she got back from India, I had the plastic bag picked up from her house.
It was a rather busy week, and I did not have the time to empty the contents, so I put away the plastic bag in my freezer.

My dear friend had bought me a gift ( a perfume bottle and a moisturizing cream), which she had put into the same plastic bag.

As I had not opened the bag at all, the perfume and cream were in my refrigerator for a good week, till I met my friend.

When I thanked her (for the powders), she asked me, “Did you like the smell?”

I was quite puzzled. Why would she ask me about the smell of masala powders ?

I told her that I had not opened the bag yet, and she left it at that.

A few days later, I opened the packet to empty the powders and found her gift. Everything made sense.

I called my friend and we had a good laugh!