Sunday, February 18, 2007

MySpice -- Mustard

Mustard as a spice is an important part of Indian cooking.The whole Mustard seeds are used for tempering, to add flavor to the oil. The Mustard paste is very popular in mostly Bengali or east Indian cooking. Mustard Oil is also an important part of Bengali Cooking and traditional Bengali Cooking mostly used Mustard Oil as the cooking medium. Even now when many households in Bengal have grown more accustomed to the other white oils, Mustard Oil is still the favored oil for frying and cooking fish. A recent study shows that Mustard Oil as a cooking medium reduces the chance of heart disease by 70% and it also an excellent source of anti-oxidants (source: Wiki)

There are three kinds of Mustard seeds -- Black, Brown and White/Yellow depending on the Mustard plant.

Mustard paste or oil adds a sharp, spicy taste to food. Both the Brown and Black Mustard seeds are used in Indian cooking, the brown one more popular for making the paste.

Brown Mustard seeds are considered good for digestion and for alleviating stomach discomfort as gas and cramps (source: Maharishi Ayurveda) Mustard Oil is also widely used for massage in Northern India. Even now when my daughter catches a cold, I heat a spoonful of mustard oil with garlic flakes and rub the warm oil on her chest and on the bottom of her feet. My dad says, his grandma used to tell them to rub mustard oil on their big toe before bath as that helps eyes to remain healthy, this piece of information is not proven though and might be a lore
Mustard seeds were used medicinally not only in India but also by the Greek and the Romans

Update: From the coments I gather that many of you are unaware of use of mustard paste in Bengali Cooking. We grind mustard to a paste with green chillis and salt and use that extensively in many of our cooking. This cannot be substituted with the Mustard Sauce we get in stores here as it lacks that sharpness. A particular mustard based sauce called "Kasundi" is very popular in Bengal. It is used as a dip and is best when eaten with rice and alu seddho (boiled potatoes) or any sauted greens.
Sorshe Bata or Mustard Paste is ubiquitous ingredient in Bengali cuisine. The best Bengali fish curries always have a mustard based sauce. Even vegetarian dishes like Shukto, Charchari (shall blog soon) etc. have mustard paste as the only spice.
The black mustard when ground to a paste may be slightly bitter so it is ground with a little poppy seeds (optional) and green chillis and salt. This somehow never happened at home when the Shil Nora was used for grinding.
Radhuni is not mustard, it looks more like Ajwain and maybe in the same family, but it is not Ajwain and has a stronger smell & flavor. Its hard to get Radhuni outside Bengal and I don't have any.

So add that little Mustard to your food in whatever form you like best and enjoy.

Trivia: Aristocrat Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf founded the Order of the Mustard Seed in Germany in 1715 inspired by the Parable of Mustard Seed told by Jesus


  1. i think i'll follow the big toe tip. i've a question - what is randhuni, is it a different kind/size of mustard?

  2. Hoho, walking around with an oily toe? :) If no-one slips and falls from streaks left behind on the floor, I'd do it, haha! But I love mustard seeds, too, you can leave them on the stove forever and they won't even burn! I made a few things with these little seeds this weekend, just too lazy to write about it...

  3. Sandeepa, did not know that Mustard Paste was used in Indian cooking. I saw it for the first time after I came here and thought it was a Western thing. I tell anybody who cares to listen that any ingredient in traditional Indian cooking is there for a reason. I had no clue about mustard now I know. Great Info.

  4. Great info!! I practically use mustard seeds everyday for Tadka for everything!!I love the flavor.

  5. Sandeepa,
    I love the yellow mustard powder, we often add it to our gujju "raitas", hence the name "raita".
    I'd fall flat if I rubbed that on my toes though...I'm the type to bang into parked cars. I'll stick with it in my cooking!


  6. Hi Sandeepa,

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    This is the update on the news

    Sorry to bother you. If you find this comment not fitting here, please be free to delete this.

  7. I used to rub mustard oil infused with garlic on my feet too Sandeepa!Orissa people se mustard oil too.I have sinusitis/cold allergy so My mom used to tell me to apply the oil to my soles or to the great toe!It is my favourite "grandma's tip" to use.

  8. Hi Sandeepa, thanks for the wonderful info about mustard... one of my favorites! I would like to try that homemade mustard paste sometime :)

  9. Nice Info,sandeepa I'm glad you got to talk about mustard , the most widely used but,less talked about.Thanks for sharing so many health Tips.Happy day ahead:)

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. And an important ingredient in paanch phoron too right?
    I used to eat this lovely dish at my Bong friend's home - bhapa paneer...I dont know if its traditionally made with mustard paste but my friend added it and it was so heady!!

  12. HAHA! Sure Sure! How about a slogan, Yahoo! Please dont copy from our blogs? heheheh :-)

    Thank Sandeepa.

    (Previous comment I deleted since it showed my mail id instead of blogger id)

  13. I thought paanch phoron e kalonji instead of mustard seeds are a part. Never had shukto with shorshe bata, that must be unique. Favorite is however dharosh with shorshe bata.

    Shorshe bata should always have a little salt. It can then be kept for longer periods of time (upto a month) It acts as a preservative and for some not used to mustard paste takes the edge of it.

    Mustard oil is good for dandruffs and stops greying of hair but is not proved. :)

    Ghoti comment was just fun. But esho if you happen to pass by. The entire family ofcourse. :))

  14. Sra
    i updated with the Radhuni info :) I don't have any to take a pic

    Hey only before your shower, not the whole day long :)

    Updated the post with Mustard paste info

    Yeah we do not use mustard seeds for tempering that much

    Yeah i read about that in one of your posts

    Vini K
    You are right , we do that too.

    Linda & Lera
    Thanks, somehow I think you are sisters :)

  15. Ashwini
    you are right panch phoron has mustard seeds as a part. I think your friend did it right, I have a recipe of "Bhapa Paneer" with mustard :)

    Panch Phoron has both Kalonji and Mustard seeds
    Shukto does have sorshe bata and sine I don't get radhuni, that's what adds the punch

    Amar shorshe bata khub bhalo lagena, ilish etc. chara so I use it but moderately. My Ma used to make Dharosh Shorshe, now that you say maybe I should make it and post

    Shall Do:)

  16. sandeepa, that was very informative. i will posting about mustard in the next couple of days, and i will use sme of the info you have provided. thanks.


  17. Sandeepa,

    I have posted the

    It will be on March 5th. Let us spread the word. Thanks a lot for your support.

  18. Hey Sandeepa,
    I use mustard seeds a lot. Mustard paste is used in many dishes. I loved ur Shukto, I should cook sometime. Some how I don't like the smell of oil in cooking but I like in pickles.

  19. Sandeepa, could'nt help commenting. I am from Assam and I can understand very well the importance of mustard in eastern cooking.Even in my and most of the other Assamese households mustard oil is still the staple cooking oil.

    I too have grown up with ma's rubbing of garlic infused mustard oil in times of colds. In fact I did so to my youngest just yesterday!!

    Moreover, both my kids were born in Kolkata, hence it is extra special for me.

  20. Bee

    Ok, so on March 5th we all post the same thing ?

    Do you use mustard paste too ?

    Thanks and so nice to see you. I think all of Eastern India shares some common grounds in cooking

    But this taste is a little difficult to get used to and pretty sharp too

  21. Great info about mustard. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Hey Sandeepa, I am flattered to see that picture of Mustard seeds and where did you get that container from? What an informative post about Mustard seeds.

  23. Sandeepa, thanks for a very informative post! I have started using more mustard seeds lately in my cooking, and they are so amazing!

    So glad I have discovered your blog. Will try some of your recipe soon. :) Thanks again!

  24. JustForFun
    Thank You :)

    Glad to know you liked the container, isn't it cute :) Its from IKEA

    Thanks for dropping by

  25. Thats a lovely post Sandeepa!!!! :) Nice pic as well!! :)

    Rub them on the toes...... HMMM!!!!

  26. I have always wondered why and how mustard is soo popular in Bengal and not in rest of India. I am specfically talking about mustard saice (known as Kasundi in Bengal) and using mustard as a sauce (musstard fish or sorse Isish in Bengali). Interestingly msimilar mustard usage exists in the west, mustard sauce is a staple with hotdogs and hamburgers, and I have also eaten canned mustard fish. I personally believe that it is the British that introduced mustard usage to the Bengalis and they then morphed it some levels more.

  27. Hello! I'm interested in the picture you have posted of the mustard seed. I was curious what it would take to gain access to this picture...


  28. Hi Sandeepa,
    Great piece on mustard seeds !
    I have posted a recipe for kasundi, and linked to this post of yours. Hope it is OK:)

  29. what has more sugar and fat mustard or ketchup?

    ps: im talking about the mustard at the store. U know with hotdog? It's for a science project weird right?

  30. hi,

    i was searching for sorshe dherosh, rather aam kasundi ladis finger - thats who we call it. i want to make it for my friend.

    i use sorsher tel a lot, and i have only that kind of oil in my kitchen. use shorshe bata and kasundi both for fish and chiken - i tried doi sorshe chiken it was awsome.

    now can you plz plz send the recipie of aam kasundi dherosh?

  31. If you wanna use Radhuni for any cooking, you can buy the Celery Seeds (McCormick)

  32. Hi...

    I've been a follower ever since I got married into a Bengali family and have been shunted a continent across from home. I have just inherited a bottle of Kasundi. But for the life of me, I cant understand its function. My hubby declares that he hasnt touched the stuff... ever! But he said the same for koraishutir kachuri as well. So I dont trust him!
    I would be very grateful if you can help me use it.

    1. Kashundi is a gem and there are infinite possibilities. To start off serve it with sauteed spinach greens and rice or mashed potatoes and rice. You are supposed to mix the veggies, rice and a drop or two of kasundi to get the flavor.

      Next add it in lieu of mustard paste to fish or veggie dishes that need mustard paste. I have baked many a salmon marinated in kashundi and mustard oil.

      You can also use it as you would use the Dijon Mustard but sparingly. Use it as a dip for chop and fish fries.

      Your husband has not touched Kashundi and is a Bengali ? Don't trust him :)

  33. Hi can I use mustard sauce like Dijon to cook bhapa ilish

  34. I have tried to make kasundi but it turned out to be very bitter. Please help


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