I’m in love with my masala dabba, my shiny, stainless steel spice box. I’ve been storing my most-used ground spices in it for about a year and it has become indispensable in my cooking. The reasons I love it are both romantic and practical.
Romantically, it’s adorable (I can’t help but smile every time I open it and see the vibrant mounds of spices), but besides that it has a rich tradition. Masala dabbas are often passed down from mother to daughter when the daughter marries and moves into her husband’s home; she enters his home with everything she needs to cook for her new family and warm the home with lovingly prepared dishes from even the most humble ingredients. To me this is a sweet thought, especially since what I brought to my husband’s home when we moved together were dull knives and worn pots and pans. The sentiment was the same: you don’t need anything fancy to bang out a decent meal for the one you love.
Practically, this is a wonderful way to store spices, compact and all in one spot instead of hidden in the unfathomable depths of the spice cabinet. Some families even keep two, one for their ground spices and one for whole spices. Masala dabbas also allow for spices to be accessed quickly when you’ve got stuff on the stove. When you are cooking a curry for which you need five different spices at the same time in the cooking process, you are going to burn the first spice before you can get the fifth one out of the little jar.
Even if you don’t cook a lot of Indian food, a masala dabba is still incredibly useful. I use mine all the time for Mexican food (cumin, cayenne, garam masala is delicious in a mole), Spanish food (paprika, coriander), and even American food with an exotic twist, like fried chicken with spiced breading or green beans with garam masala butter. As in India where the spices kept in each household vary across regions, you can absolutely change up what you store depending on what you use most often. You can personalize it and make it your very own.