As a hook to describe the complexity of spices and the layering of flavors in Indian cuisine, Raghavan Iyer talks about how spices have eight flavors depending on how they are prepared. The idea is that you get different flavors depending on:
- plain(whole vs. ground)
- toasted(whole vs. ground)
- cooked in oil(whole vs. ground)
- soaked in liquid(whole vs. ground)
I first heard Iyer’s description applied to cumin in a Splendid Table interview, and recently encountered it applied to coriander seeds in Iyer’s book 660 Curries. It makes sense that different components of a spice will react differently depending on their solubility in water or oil, and their reactions to heat.
Iyer is sometimes vague in his descriptions of the flavors, e.g. “Take those toasted seeds and grind them, and they smell nothing like any of their previous incarnations.” Has any one encountered (or home tested!) a detailed treatment of these “8 flavors” in various spices? I’m gonna try to do some experimenting on my own, and could use some vocabulary to stay somewhat consistent (like the wine wheel).