The following ingredients are common to many curry recipes. They can be found at Indian grocery stores, some specialty stores and at online spice purveyors, such as www.namaste.com, www.whitejasmine.com and www.penzeys.com.
GARAM MASALA (gah-RAHM mah-SAH-lah) An Indian spice blend with a warm, earthy flavor. Ingredients vary but may include black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel, ginger and nutmeg. Recipes for it are in every Indian cookbook.
TURMERIC (TER-muh-rihk) A potent coloring agent that imparts its yellowish color to curries and other spice blends.
CURRY POWDER An Indian spice blend that ranges from mild to hot. Curry powder labeled "Madras" tends to be quite hot. Ingredients vary but may include cardamom, chili peppers, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel, ginger, fenugreek, nutmeg, pepper, saffron and turmeric.
GREEN CARDAMOM PODS (KAR-duh-muhm) A member of the ginger family with an intensely warm, sweet flavor. Often called the Queen of Spices. The pods, containing black seeds, are used whole or ground. (Shy away from buying ground cardamom; it is best to grind it fresh.) Some stores carry white cardamom, which is a bleached version of green cardamom.
BLACK CARDAMOM PODS Less common than green cardamom. A more earthy, woodsy flavor. The pods are used whole to flavor a dish and are generally removed prior to serving.
TAMARIND (TAM-uh-rihnd) The exceptionally tart fruit of the tamarind pod. Used as a souring agent. Commonly available in a thick paste or concentrate.