Are there any "rules" for combining spices in Indian cooking?

I decided to make a vegetable curry and just completely wing it. a little of this, a little of that. It was pretty good, but when I later consulted some Indian cookbooks I started to wonder if there are any rules or formulas for combining different spices. I would love to know if anyone who grew up with Indian food (or has studied it) can say "don't combine blank with blank" or other words of wisdom? Thanks!

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Panfusine July 23, 2011
Oh yes, one would NEVER bring the asafetida near any sweet dish..& garam masala is almost NEVER used in south Indian cuisine. In general, the common spices all over Inida are mustard coriander & cumin, Cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves, nutmeg & cardamom are more prevalent in savory Northern food, whereas, curry leaves, coconut, peppercorn is usually a southern thing. Cloves, nutmeg & cardamom are spices associated predominantly in desserts in the south, although they do get used in savory dishes as well.
... From whatever little I've observed the combinations of spices end up being characteristic of food from different regional districts.. e.g Sambhar is a lentil gravy made with pigeon peas, Brahmin kitchens would shudder at the thought of adding cinnamon or fennel to the spice blend, but other communities do it all the time, & both versions are equally delicious.
In fact, I've even used non Indian herbs & spices such as thyme & lavender in traditional dishes with wonderful results!

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