Indian cooks depend upon the masala dabba, or spice box, for organising and storing the many spices that they use in the kitchen. The classic masala dabba is usually round and made of stainless steel or copper; it consists of a large box with seven smaller boxes -- which may or may not have lids -- fitted inside it; sometimes seven small spoons are also included. A large lid fits across the top of the larger container, keeping the spices fresh and dry. You can easily make a similar spice box for your favourite spices, with plastic or metal containers and some packages of bulk spices.
Make sure that your large tin or container has a well-fitting lid; it can be round or square. Clean the tin and dry thoroughly. Place the empty, smaller lidded containers inside the large tin to ascertain that they all fit inside snugly in rows.
Label each of the smaller container lids with the names of the spices you will be putting inside them. Use a permanent marker so that the lettering does not fade or wash off. Place the lid of each container near or under it so that you place the correct lid on each filled spice container.
Fill the small containers with the variety of spices that you have chosen. Use a plastic spoon to transfer each spice so that the flavours do not contaminate the other tins. Make sure that you include a range of basic spices such as salt, pepper, oregano and basil. Then add containers of your personal favourites.
Place the correct lid on each small filled spice container. Place the small containers inside the larger spice box. Close the box under ready to use, and store in a cool, dry place such as a cupboard or pantry shelf.
Make up several spice boxes -- one for your Indian cooking, one for dessert spices, one for savoury spices -- if you like. Consider buying a genuine masala dabba from an Indian kitchenware store or grocery. Make sure that your spice box is the right size for your cooking needs -- smaller if you cook less often -- so that the spices do not get stale too quickly. Make a typical Indian masala dabba by filling your containers with black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, garam masala, turmeric, red chilli powder and coriander powder.