Have you ever wondered what to do when you put too much of a certain spice into a dish or how to flavour a dish such that you can distinguish between the different spices you have used?
Just as one would pair wine with cheese or food with wine to optimize our eating experience, the same is true of spices. Knowing which spices go well with each other can be crucial to getting an overall balance in flavour in any dish. You wouldn't eat a dish that is too salty or too bitter and nor should you eat a dish where one spice overpowers everything.
The lawyer in me likes to compartmentalize things and so with spices, this is exactly what I do. The taste buds can easily identify the sweetness, saltiness, sourness, bitterness and savouriness in a dish. In similar fashion, I like to split my spices into five easily identifiable tastes: Hot, Pungent, Tangy, Sweet and Mild. They are also in top-down order of the proportions (little-more) in which, in most but not all cases, they should be used when combined with other spices.
Hot - Often but Little
Pungent - Always and in Equal parts
Tangy -Occasional and Enough
If you have already used hot and pungent spices, a dish may call for some sourness to take the edge off the spices a little. The spice equivalent to lemon or lime would be curry leaves, tamarind, sumac or amchur powder. Again, as with the pungent spices, the tangy spices are individual in the strength of sourness they would bring to a dish. Sumac and amchur powder are at the lighter citrusy end of the spectrum with tamarind being at the opposite end. Use these when the occasion calls for it in a dish or spice blend and just enough to add tanginess into the flavour pot.