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What Is In My British Indian Restaurant Spice Larder?

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British Indian Restaurant (BIR) spice selection

British Indian Restaurant (BIR) spice selection

I’m often asked which spices are essential for good British Indian Restaurant (BIR) style cooking. Indian curry house cooking is different to more authentic styles in that it was adapted to make great tasting meals fast in a busy restaurant.

I have about every spice going in my spice larder but there are a few spices/ spices mixes (masalas) I use all the time. These are the spices I keep topped up for quick meals after work. They are the spices you will need to have on hand if you are interested in perfecting your BIR cooking skills.

Not everyone cooks as much BIR meals as I do at home so you may wish to prepare the spices in small amounts so that your meals taste exciting and fresh.

I also recommend sourcing an Indian spice container – such as a spice dabbas (pictured below) or perhaps something more modern like the nifty air-tight stainless steel spice jars that were sent to me by my friends at Brabantia. I love these containers and highly recommend them if you are using spices often.


Spices ready for Jennifer's butter chicken recipe

My daughter’s spice dabbas which I borrow from time to time


Spices for British Indian Restaurant (BIR) curries

My BIR spice containers supplied by Brabantia

I visit quite a few Indian restaurant kitchens and most have a nice line up of spices at the ready. I’ve copied these spice collections for my British Indian restaurant selection at home.

So here you go. I do roast all of my spices to release the essential oils. You should do the same. To do so, simply add the whole spices to a dry frying pan and roast over medium heat until the spices are fragrant and warm. Be sure to remove them from the heat to a cool container just before they begin to smoke.

Then grind them and store as discussed above.

My British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Essential Spices

garam masala for British Indian restaurant (BIR) curries

My garam masala roasting in a pan

  • Garam Masala – This is my curry powder. I have many different recipes that I use. Currently I’m using this one
  • Tandoori Masala – This is a very useful spice blend for you tandoori fans out there. I tend to go from this recipe to a rather more simple version which is just my garam masala recipe with a nice big pinch of citric acid powder. Both work really well.
  • Turmeric – I purchase this in powdered form. Generally speaking, I use about a teaspoon or so per for person curry. You don’t need a lot.
  • Cumin – I purchase the seeds and then roast them. The flavour is so much nicer than the stale ground cumin you find at most shops.
  • Coriander – Look for small coriander seeds that look fresh. Coriander seeds begin to look and taste a lot like sawdust when too old.
  • Red Chili Powder – I use a spicy Kashmiri powder and also a mild smoked paprika.
  • Salt and pepper – I use my spiced salt blend. You can find the recipe here but plain flaky salt and black pepper will do the job just fine.


<strong>Disclaimer:</strong>Brabantia supplied me with my new spice containers free of charge. I highly recommend them.



mike wheeler

Sunday 9th of February 2014

Hi Dan, Have you considered doing a curry cook book for vegetarians ? Also making your e books available as purchasable PDF's for those withouyt a kindle ? kind regards Mike

Dan Toombs

Saturday 15th of February 2014

Hi Mike

I've started writing a veggie book but haven't made much progress yet. Hopefully I can finish it soon. PDF books are also on the "to do" list. Thanks.


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