The spice you may not be all that familiar with here is the hing (asafoetida). Hing is like the umami of Indian cooking and it brings everything together in the best way possible without you even realizing it’s there. I didn’t even realize that my mom was using it in her recipes for the longest time, and when I would try and re-create those dishes without hing, they would come out subpar.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this though – hing does not smell good on its own. It has a very pungent aroma – think like a very strong onion/garlic – and it has to be mellowed out and used in small quantities. If it’s your first time using it, start out very light-handed, and then work your way up. Even in this salad, I only use about a 1/8 teaspoon worth.
While it needs to be activated to mellow out its flavor, hing is amazing in helping with digestion, which is why so many lentil dishes in Indian cooking use a little bit of it. Some people even make digestive healing teas by combining hing, cumin, and coriander with hot water! If you can’t find hing, you could substitute some chopped chives or green onions to get a little bit of that bitter flavor.