When thinking about seriously spiced food, Indian cuisine immediately comes to mind. Many other regions and cultures have local spice blends, like berbere in Ethiopia and five-spice powder in China, but in no other country do the spices rule the kitchen. Try to imagine an Indian dish that doesn't have spices. Not coming up with anything? There's good reason for that.
Spices are deeply embedded in Indian culture. They even played an instrumental role in India's economy. Since ancient times, people have made the long trek to India, lured by exotic spices. Remember Christopher Columbus? He accidentally discovered America while trying to find a quicker way to get to India's expensive, highly sought after spices. It's no stretch to say that Indians are proud of their spices, and that's pretty clear by their regular use of 10+ spices in a single recipe.
Trying to follow spices in an Indian kitchen can get complicated real fast, and it gets even more difficult when breaking apart the vast regional differences. We're lucky to have a few places in the Valley that specialize in regional Indian foods, helping diners delineate the many varieties of Indian food. Local favorite The Dhaba brings us Punjabi flavors from North India, including a lot of onion, garlic, and ginger. Punjabi is the most commonly served - and therefore most recognizable - type of Indian cuisine in the U.S. and U.K., so it's a great place to begin familiarizing yourself with Indian spices.