Fenugreek: Rich and round with a slight bite, this aromatic plant is known for its pleasantly bitter, slightly sweet seeds. Fenugreek seeds, which come whole and ground, are used to flavor many foods, including curry powders, spice blends and teas. Fenugreek seeds should be stored in a cool, dark place for no more than 6 months.
Garam masala: Garam is the Hindi word for "warm" or "hot," and this blend of dry-roasted ground spices from the colder climes of northern India adds a sense of warmth to both palate and spirit. There are as many variations of garam masala (which may contain up to 12 spices) as there are Indian cooks. It can include black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, cardamom, dried chiles, fennel, ginger, mace and nutmeg. Garam masala is usually either added to a curries, vegetable dishes, soups, or stews toward the end of cooking or sprinkled over the surface just before serving.
Mint: Often paired with lamb dishes and served in raitas and chutneys, this cooling herb has a pleasantly fresh, aromatic, sweet flavor.
Tamarind: Also called Indian date, concentrated tamarind pulp is used to add a somewhat sour flavor to chutneys and curries. Limes are an acceptable substitute.
Turmeric: This ground dried root has a characteristic musky, earthy aroma and a pungent, slightly bitter flavor. Turmeric is a powerful yellow-orange coloring agent, used as a dye for fabrics and foods such as pickles, relish, and chutneys, plus rice, lentil, and vegetable dishes. Turmeric is thought to aid the digestion and to work as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Additional spices: Indian food is so rich with spices that what we have above is only a partial list. For a well-stocked pantry, you might consider stocking up on peppercorns (the source of "heat" in spicy foods before the introduction of chiles), fennel seeds, poppy seeds, bay leaves, black mustard seeds, nigella seeds (kalonji--sometimes called black onion seed), saffron, and asafoetida.