What’s in your masala box?

Some masalas are used so often that you don’t want to unscrew lids while you are cooking. So I’m told. I never used a masala box in the halcyon days I was king of my kitchen. But now we have a cook, into whose domain I venture only on her days off. But I;ve begun to appreciate the uses of a masala box. But I do have a distinct feeling of otherness when I peek into hers. The powdered haldi, the dhania and jeera powders, and the flakes of red chili staples in my book too. You could leave some of them out in some recipes, and others out of some others. But in a week’s cooking I, and perhaps most of you, will use these. But where is the powdered garam masala? I use it more often than red chili. I would certainly put the garam masala in the box and the red chilis on a shelf, within easy reach when needed. The Family says she would have both in the box.

I don’t do dals so often; so the mustard seeds and whole jeera could also be somewhere on my masala shelf. On second thought, I often do veggies which call for whole jeera. So maybe the jeera would go in the box and the mustard seeds on the shelf. The Family says she would retain both.

The urad dal? I barely use it, perhaps only when I’m cooking a leaf, and I want to add something for texture. Even then my first thought would be to add vadi instead of dal. So that’s definitely out for me. The Family says she would get rid of it too; she would have to in order to make space for the powdered garam masala. What would I use that space for? Maybe I would put a mix of whole masalas, some cinnamon (the stick in the photo comes from a cook by The Family), some elaichi, some cloves, a bay leaf or two, a few pieces of star aniseed.

What about you? If you regularly do Indian recipes, perhaps even if you don’t, what is in your masala box?