Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Indian Spices: Rai, Raai, Sarson (Mustard Seeds)

One of my most favourite comparisons about a person is "like mustard seeds in hot oil" for someone who is impatient. Ah, mustard! What tales could be told of these little black pearls!

Mustard Seeds: Rai, Raai, Sarson
Mustard seeds are known by various names across different regions in India. Gujaratis call it "raai", Maharashtrians calls it "mohri", North Indians call it "sarson", and in the South it goes by "avalu" in Telugu and "kadugu" in Tamil.  Just as there are different names for the mustard seed, there are different kinds of mustard seeds - black, brown and white/yellow. The most commonly used form of mustard in cooking is the black mustard. 

Black mustard seeds are used in Indian cooking primarily for tempering. In Indian cooking, no dish - be it curry or lentil, vegetarian or meat preparation- is complete without tempering of some form. And that makes mustard seeds an inseparable part of Indian cuisine. Mustard seeds have a characteristic pungent taste that lends a spicy tang to the dish. 

Mustard Seeds: Rai, Raai, Sarson

Other parts of the mustard plant also lend to different dishes and condiments in regional Indian cuisine. One of the most famous dishes of Punjabi cuisine is sarson ka saag and makke ki roti, which is a gravy made of mustard greens and spinach served with maize flour flatbreads. The cooking oil used widely in North Indian and Bengali cuisine is mustard oil which is extracted from mustard seeds. 

Mustard seeds have many health benefits. Poultices of mustard seeds are traditionally used for decongesting blocked nose and chest during colds. Adding a tied bundle of mustard seeds to your hot bath water will relieve aching muscles and joints. The use of mustard seeds also boosts the effect of the Omega-3 content of fish and oils.