Curries from Scratch, a beginners guide


I really want to start experimenting with indian food, without relying on jars of paste. I am looking for any good information so:

  • What spices to buy?
  • What equipment?
  • Any good books?
  • Any good web sites?
  • Any other resources?

Best Answer

What spices to buy?

I have listed commonly used spices/ingredients. If you are on a budget, purchase the ones with a (!) before them.

Powders and Pastes ("Masalas")

  • (!) Coriander Powder ("Dhania Powder")
  • (!) Cumin Powder ("Jeera Powder")
  • (!) Red Chilli Powder ("Laal Mirch Powder")
  • Turmeric Powder ("Haldi Powder")
  • Garam Masala Powder
  • Ginger Garlic Paste (You can skip this if you have fresh ginger and garlic)


  • (!) Cumin Seeds ("Jeera")
  • (!) Mustard Seeds ("Rai")
  • Cloves ("Laung")
  • Cardamon Seeds ("Elaichi")
  • Bay Leaves ("Taej Pata")

Fresh Spices

  • (!) Green Chillies
  • (!) Garlic
  • Ginger ("Adrak")
  • Coriander Leaves ("Dhania")
  • Curry Leaves ("Kadhi patta")

Common Vegetables

  • (!) Onions
  • (!) Tomatoes (tomato is officially a fruit, ignore the heading)

Lentils & Beans

Buy these on a need basis, depending on the recipe.

  • Tur Daal (Yellow lentil. There are 2-3 yellow lentils, ask the store for Toor dal, which is most common)
  • Chick Peas ("Chhole" or "Kabuli Channa")
  • Kidney Beans ("Rajma")

In the US, most towns have an Indian Store. A while back, a small packet of each spice/powder would be around $2.

What equipment?

To cook Curries, you don't need anything special.

A small grinder/food processor to grind spices is very helpful. If you don't have one, you can always crush the spices using a rolling pin before putting it in the frying pan.

A pressure cooker is helpful to cook/boil lentils or beans. If you don't have one, you can always cook them in an open container - it just takes more time.

Any good books? Any good web sites?

Sanjeev Kapoor and Tarla Dalal are two popular cooks in India. Their websites have some good recipes that you can pick up.

Youtube has some great videos on Indian cooking, but you need to know what to search. Read the blogs I mentioned above, pick up a curry/dish you find interesting and search it on youtube. That's perhaps the best way to find good videos.

Any other advice?

Just some little tips that I think would help you get started -

  1. Most curries are based on Onion and Tomato. A generic recipe would be - "Pour a little oil in a frying pan. Add spices till they start to crackle. Add chopped onions and saute till golden brown. Add chopped tomatoes and saute for a few minutes. Add dry spices/powders. Add vegetables/chicken/meat and cook". This is the most basic Indian recipe, and others build from here.
  2. Ginger Garlic paste is readily available, and is handy when you don't want to peel and crush garlic cloves.
  3. Garam Masala powder is always added last
  4. India is a huge country, and every region has its own distinct flavour. In general, North and South Indian food are totally different. The curries usually come from Punjab in North India, so searching for "Punjabi Recipes" is likely to get you better results. The most popular South Indian dishes are "Idlis" and "Dosas".