Cumin seeds are either used whole, or toasted and ground into cumin powder (bhuna jeera podi).
Cumin seeds belong to the parsley and dill family and resemble caraway seeds, though they have a unique flavour that does not match any of these. The oblong, brown-coloured cumin seed is one of the most popular spices in the world, thanks to its distinctive aroma, and warmly bitter flavour.
Their distinctive flavour and strong warm aroma are due to the essential oil content. They add an earthy and warming feeling to cooking. Aside from the flavour, cumin is considered to be an aid to digestion.
Cumin seeds are best bought from an Indian grocer or a specialist spice merchant.