According to Wikipedia, there's a difference between "to season" and "to flavor" with herbs and spices. For instance, to tenderize meat, one may add salt which improves the flavor. Other seasonings like black pepper and basil may transfer some of their flavor to the food.
In addition to how seasonings are used as described above, the timing of when spices are added to the dish is also important. In Indian cooking, there is a technique you could say is used to enhance the flavor of the food. Besides Chaunk, other words for seasoning are Talimpu, Tadka, or Popu which can be all translated to say tempering in English. This technique is often used in dishes from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Whole spices are fried briefly in oil or butter to release essential oils which enhance the flavor of the dish. Then this mixture with the oil is combined with the dish you have prepared.
It is the last thing we do before the dish is done. One time, my mom was making mango daal and she put it aside to make some other dish. I was so excited about the daal, that I just spooned it up with some rice and ate it. Immediately, I realized something was missing. Can you guess?? The chaunk wasn't added to the dish and it tasted weird to me. Anyways, she took her little saucepan out and heated up the oil, added all the spices and mixed it into the daal and Voila! I ate it twice that night.
Here is the little secret I have been dying to share with you so far. Most Indians keep something called a Spice Box (Chaunk or Taalimpu box) in their spices cabinet for easy access. This box contains the following ingredients from counter clockwise: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, dried red peppers, red chili powder, coriander & cumin powder, garam masala, and turmeric.
It is easy to prepare this box; just use a container (with a tight lid) that can hold smaller containers to hold all these spices which can be placed in a kitchen cupboard. You would be surprised to know that this box isn't just used in everyday cooking. Professional chefs use this too to enhance their cuisines. Don't take my word for it, just take a look at the Iron Chef episode with Executive Chef Maneet Chauhan (from At Vermilion restaurant) vs Chef Morimoto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDMsVs8PjjI. Speed up the video to :40 seconds to see the camera focusing on the Spice Box. In our box, we included the spices we use most and we have salt in a separate container because we use that in everyday cooking. If you would like to learn how to make seasoning for your dishes, please follow this link or take a look on our Cooking 101 page: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7x96rO6JWUQ&feature=player_embedded
Well, my friends until next time...keep on Cookin'!!!