Reciting the MDH masala jingle is like muscle memory for many Hindi speakers of a certain generation. The song, a jangly chant through a condensed list of spice blends, is catchy and shamelessly rhymes “masala” with “masala,” and the brand’s vibrant cardboard packages are a dependable fixture.
Diaspora Co. CEO Sana Javeri Kadri recalls her childhood in which MDH masalas had their own entire space of the refrigerator. Even though their daughter owns a spice business, she quips that her parents’ refrigerator is still filled with the masalas from her youth.
Yet, a lot of recipe writers in the US have been reluctant to call for South Asian spice blends, either out of accessibility concerns or a purist concept of “authenticity.” Instead, a recipe’s ingredients section can have a list of more than a dozen distinct spices that need to be toasted, ground, and blended.
According to Meherwan Irani, chef and proprietor of Spicewalla, a small-batch spice firm, “I feel that blends acquired a poor name because of things like curry powder being thought of as this one, ubiquitous Indian spice blend.” Just sprinkle it on anything to create “Indian” meals.
The widely known fact is that many home cooks in South Asia adore pre-blended Desi spices. While next-generation direct-to-consumer businesses like Spicewalla, Diaspora Co., and Podi Life are expanding into new areas, South Asian grocery store classics like MDH, Shan, Badshah, Everest, and MTR continue to be popular brands from the subcontinent.
The time is now to stock up on South Asian spice combinations and use them liberally in your home cooking. This is why.
Store-bought spice blends allow you to cook South Asian food more frequently.
It can take a lot of work to create your own spice blend. When it comes to commonly used blends like garam masala, customizing them to your taste, preferences, and culture is an alchemy that’s typically developed over generations, becoming a family treasure. It can be difficult to reproduce the customary, time-consuming process of making blends from scratch.
Furthermore, who among us hasn’t been put off from trying a new recipe by the lengthy list of ingredients?
That was my strategy when I was a young, conceited cook, says Kadri. “We have to do it all ourselves.” “I have to struggle with the idea that it’s not feasible at some time. The last time I made tandoori chicken was solely as a result of my refusal to purchase a ready-made masala. How about purchasing pre-made masala and adding extra tandoori chicken to your diet?
Kadri developed Tandoori Masala for Diaspora Co. for months, and test batches of masala in countless bottles sat on her kitchen counter. She prepared everything, including cauliflower mixed in the smoky-tangy mixture and tandoori paneer. She recalls, “I was on a roll and it brought me so much delight.” “I discovered that it’s all about joy. It’s not something we have to take so seriously. Investing in well-made, popular Desi spice mixes, such as the earthy-sweet pav bhaji masala or the mouthwatering chaat masala, is a shortcut, not a give-up.
Desi masalas unlock more regional cooking.
Despite the fear that relying on spice blends can flatten perception of the subcontinent’s cuisine, South Asian spice blends have actually made regional cuisines more accessible.