Anokhi DIY / Culture & Lifestyle / Home Space / DIY: How to Preserve Five Common South Asian Ingredients

DIY: How to Preserve Five Common South Asian Ingredients

Anokhi DIY Culture & Lifestyle Home Space Aug 23, 2016

South Asian cooking involves a wonderful variety of ingredients — from spices, pastes and powders to aromatic leaves, flowers and seeds! But keeping all these elements fresh and flavourful can be a challenge, and nothing ruins a great recipe like stale ingredients.

So here’s some quick tips on how to preserve some common South Asian ingredients and extend their shelf lives until you’re ready to use them.


  1. Paneer

Paneer spoils easily — even when refrigerated.
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Paneer, or firm cottage cheese, is a dairy product that spoils very quickly even when refrigerated.

If you’re not using the entire package, make a clean cut in the block and place the unused portion in a sturdy plastic container. Fill the container with cool or room-temperature water until the entire block is completely submerged. Make sure the lid is firmly in place and refrigerate.

Paneer stored this way will keep for approximately two weeks, and this method also works for tofu. When you’re ready to use it, simply discard the water and prepare your favourite dish!

  1. Curry Leaves

Curry leaves lose their flavour in the refrigerator.
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Curry leaves can be hard to come by in the average grocery store, making them a precious resource to this writer! Plus, they tend to shrivel up and lose their delicious scent and flavour rather quickly when simply stored in the refrigerator.

In order to pack in all that goodness, spread your curry leaves out on a microwave-safe plate and nuke them until they’re completely dry and crispy. Microwave in 10-second intervals in order to keep an eye on the progress and avoid burning them entirely!

Once they're completely dehydrated, allow them to cool and store in an airtight container. Refrigeration is optional. They’ll last for months!

  1. Coriander/Cilantro

Coriander has a very short shelf life.
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Cilantro is used both as a flavour enhancer and a garnish, and it's the perfect hit of bright, fresh oomph in a spicy curry. But you rarely manage to use up an entire bunch before it turns to dark green mush in the crisper drawer!

To avoid wasting this multi-purpose herb, separate the leaves from the stem, wash them in cool water and gently pat dry with a paper towel. Once they're entirely dry, wrap the leaves in muslin or a cheese cloth and either tie up the ends or fasten with a rubber band. Make sure the bundle isn’t too tight and that the leaves are loosely packed. This approach will increase the lifespan of your coriander to at least ten days or more.

  1. Ginger, garlic or chili paste

Ginger, garlic or chili paste is a staple in South Asian recipes.
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If you’re comfortable in the kitchen and a fairly frequent home chef, you likely use ginger, garlic or chili paste as part of your regular culinary arsenal. To cut down on prep time, you can prepare these ingredients in bulk and freeze them. But a solid block of frozen garlic paste is no use when you’re in a hurry!

To ensure your frozen pastes are always ready to use without having to thaw them out beforehand, add a pinch or two of salt before freezing. The salt will prevent the pastes from freezing all the way through, so they'll always be the right consistency to spoon out easily.

  1. Masalas

Spices lose their kick over time
Image Credit: DGS Spices
Masalas are at their tasty best when they're freshly ground. But over time, they lose a bit of their vigour and aroma when they're stored in bottles or plastic containers.

To maintain their potency and ensure that their flavour profiles stay at their full potential, store them in well-sealed, airtight containers and simply refrigerate. They'll retain their vitality for much longer, and you can store them like this indefinitely!

Main Image Photo Credit:

Dilshad Burman

Dilshad Burman


Dilshad Burman is an award winning TV host and Canadian media personality.   Born in Mumbai, India, she was surrounded by its creative energy and grew up with a passion for music, film and television. While completing her Bachelor of Arts in English literature from The University of Mumbai, she i...


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