Almost every Indian family, in India and abroad, has at least 1 or more spice dabbas in their kitchen. This image comes to my mind - of my mom deftly and efficiently, holding the dabba in one hand and with the other quickly adding the spices with a spoon directly into the pot, where the menu for the day was being cooked. Somehow, she knew exactly which spices were needed for which dish, in the right ratio and how much of each. Amazing! Only when I started cooking myself, I learnt to do this. I have 2 spice dabbas. One has a basic spice combo and the second has only whole spices.
Why do we need spices anyway? Apparently, spices have healing and preserving properties, so they were used in the ancient world against spoilage of food in hot tropical countries. Spices are used in small quantities, almost add no calories and yet contribute a substantial amount of nutrients to our bodies. Wow take that people! For e.g. turmeric, Curcuma longa, is a root of the ginger family, is anti-inflammatory, helps with digestion, gas and bloating, cures skin diseases and wounds and so on and on. You will find plenty of info about all the spices in Google.
A short story: growing up as child in Chennai, I used to see women on the streets or in the villages walking around with yellow faces. I found out, that they put a thin layer of freshly ground root turmeric on their faces. And they did not mind walking around like that! They believed it would make them fair, which was not true, but they did have fantastic clear skins with no blemishes.
The dabba in this photo shows the basic spices that I use… powder x 4: coriander, cumin, chili, turmeric and whole x 8: mustard, cumin, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, chili, star anise and bay leaf.
For basic daily simple cooking, whole spices are put directly in hot oil or used to make a spice-paste, while the powdered spices can be mixed directly into the ingredients. This ratio of the powdered spices work well for me - a teaspoon or tablespoon each - ¼ turmeric; ½ chili powder; 1 cumin powder; 2 coriander powder.
Do you want to buy one spice box with my basic Indian spices, which does not occupy much space in your kitchen and yet keeps the spices fresh? You can order from my web-shop. Spice up your life! Its good for you.