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  Age on Sunday   09 Apr 2017  Spice up in style

Spice up in style

Published : Apr 9, 2017, 6:22 am IST
Updated : Apr 9, 2017, 6:22 am IST

Indian food is different not just from region to region but home to home.

Churan Aamrakhand
 Churan Aamrakhand

A multifarious spice that is an essential ingredient in every kind of regional cuisine, cumin or jeera is a staple in kitchens across Asia, says Fareeda Kanga.

Ask any Indian to define ‘Indian food’ and he will be dumfounded. But a foreigner will have a ready answer “chicken tikka masala or aloo tikki.”

Indian food is different not just from region to region but home to home. In this mélange of flavours there are some spices (just a handful) that are used in regional cookery across the length and breadth of the country. Amongst the foremost is jeera or cumin, known to man since the Biblical times. From the rice meat curries of Kashmir to the coconut-based ones of the South as well as traditional Gujarati vegetarian dishes and river fish recipes from Bengal, this gentle spice is an integral ingredient.

Surprisingly, I learnt that cumin is not merely restricted to Indian cooking. As I was all set to research this story in the great Indian kitchens across the country, I was introduced to Chef Qiguo Su, Executive Chinese Chef, Shang Palace, Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru. Chef Qiguo Su specialises in Sichuan cuisine, one of China’s eight regional culinary traditions and the most popular world over. Sichuan cuisine is recognised for its hot and spicy delicacies resulting from the liberal use of bold and spicy ingredients including garlic and chilli peppers. I was surprised to learn that cumin plays an important role in this regional cuisine as well.

“Dishes using lamb and chicken often have a smattering of cumin much like Indian cooking,” says Chef Su as he prepares a delectable cumin fried lamb, wok fried with garlic, oyster sauce and spring onion in the majestic settings of his restaurant.

A versatile spice
“The seeds should be lightly roasted before being used whole or ground to bring out the aroma. Cumin may also be pounded with other spices in mixtures such as curry powder, crushed cumin seeds may be used as a seasoning for buttermilk, salads, raita, soups, etc. Dal is tempered with cumin seeds to give it a warm and comforting flavour. Cumin is commonly used to temper many other legume and tandoori preparations, to enhance the flavour and aroma. Together with black peppercorns and coriander seeds, cumin is used to prepare the popular south Indian rasam,” shares Sous Chef Lakhbir Singh, Ssaffron Restaurant, Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru.  

A healthy choice
Roasted cumin seed powder is added to buttermilk to aid digestion and enhance flavour. The presence of thymol and other essential oils in cumin seeds stimulate the salivary glands thereby helping in the digestion of food.

When purchasing ensure that the seeds are not broken and have a fresh and crisp texture. Do check the date of packaging before the purchase. Cumin seeds and cumin seed powder should be stored in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place.


Cumin fried lamb
Wok fried with garlic, oyster sauce and spring onion
120 gm lamb, boneless slice
20 ml vegetable oil
25 gm cumin seeds
3 gm garlic chopped
5 gm red chilli dry
1 gm white pepper powder
3 gm soya sauce
2 gm chilli powder
5 gm spring onions
25 gm oyster sauce
30 gm cornstarch
1 egg
20 gm salt
1 big onion


In a bowl combine egg, cornstarch, salt and pepper. Add lamb and keep aside to marinate for one hour.
Heat oil in the wok and add lamb, let it sear a moment, then deep fry until lamb is cooked and remove from wok.
Again heat oil the wok, add cumin seeds and dry red chilli and stir-fry a few seconds until cumin seeds start to pop. Add spring onion, oyster sauce and stir-fry for a minute.
Then return lamb to wok, add soya sauce and stir-fry for another one to two minutes. Check the seasonings and serve.    

Churan Aamrakhand
Mango-flavoured yoghurt
seasoned with cumin powder
30 gm mango pulp
80 gm sugar                          
5 gm cashew nuts (4)
4 gm roasted jeera powder
150 gm fresh yogurt            

For curd
Tie fresh curd tightly in muslin or cheesecloth for draining water, hang it for two hours  
Take the hang curd and whisk it, beat it well to a smooth paste
For Mango
Take mango pulp and strain it.

Add sugar to the curd little by little while whisking continuously. Now stir in the mango pulp.
Add roasted jeera powder. Stir it until mixed properly.
Pour this mixture into serving bowl and chill in the refrigerator for two hours and serve cold.

Lamb pantras  — crispy pancake filled with lamb mince
For 4 portions
400 gm flour
3 eggs
200 ml milk
50 gm butter
Salt to taste
500 gm mutton, minced
1 onion, chopped
10 gm ginger, chopped
10 gm garlic, chopped
100 gm potatoes, peeled and cubed
Chilli powder
10 gm garam masala powder
5 gm cumin powder
10 gm coriander powder
Oil for deep frying
500 gm bread crumbs


On low heat, cook the mince along with the chopped onion, garlic, ginger, potatoes, chilli powder, garam masala, cumin powder, coriander powder and salt with half cup of water till the potatoes are soft and the mince is cooked. Cool and keep aside.
Mix the flour, eggs, milk, butter and salt with a little water to make a thin batter. Make thin crepes on a flat pan, cooking them on one side only.
Place each crepe on a plate; add a tablespoon of mince mix on one end and roll up tucking in the sides as you would a spring roll.
Heat oil in a deep pan. Dip each roll in beaten egg, then roll in bread crumbs. Deep fry until golden brown and drain on a kitchen towel. Serve hot with some spicy sauce or mayonnaise.

Tags: digestion, indian food, gujarati dishes