About a decade ago, I spent a summer as a hapless student working for a nonprofit in India. I basically had no idea what I was doing and was dressed hopelessly inappropriately for the climate, but I knew that the food was excellent and delicious, and that I wanted to recreate some of it upon my return to the USA. My extremely patient host mother taught me how to cook some basic dishes—roti, chickpeas, okra.. One of the ingredients that she swore by was ginger-garlic paste. In my early experiments with the substance, I determined that it was magic. Add a dollop to oil heating in the skillet, and everything in the kitchen immediately smells delicious. It was great cooked into an okra dish, but it was equally good with scrambled eggs, or noodles, or fried rice, or whatever other weird concoctions I made that summer.

You can, of course, make this by mashing together garlic and grated ginger, but you can also buy it in a small glass jar, a handy shortcut when you're short on time. I was so enamored with ginger-garlic paste that I brought a jar in my luggage home. I shouldn't have bothered. For one thing, it broke and got all over my clothes. For another, it's a fairly widely available substance in most Indian markets. I've found it in some health food stores, and occasionally in the "international" aisle of the supermarket. Over the years, I've used it in stirfries and marinades, and even in salad dressing. It's one of the best condiment investments I've ever made. Go grab some. Just don't put it in your luggage.