Spices make the food world go ‘round. No, literally – changing one spice can turn an Indian curry into a savory Spanish stew. Each jar is like a postcard, bringing to mind far off places or warm memories. The right spices can make or break a dish, turning everyday ingredients into authentic ethnic cuisine. Switching up the spices in your rack can even help you fight the food boredom that sometimes creeps up.
San Francisco-based Spice Hound offers customers more than 100 high quality spices, salts, and blends sourced both locally and from around the world. Company founder Tammy Tan gave me a little insight into what drives her passion for spices:
“First and foremost, I love food. I love where food comes from, how cultures are built on food and how our society is formed around food. I love helping or teaching people about spices and I love that spices can be part of their memories. It is a necessity to eat, but a majority of people view a meal as a pleasurable event, not just another thing we have to do. That appreciation of where your food comes from, and how people remember an amazing meal, is why I started Spice Hound. I wanted to provide people the basic building blocks for creating a fantastic meal.”
Tammy’s also committed to ethically sourced and produced spices.
“I want to make sure that our customers get the kind of products that my mom or my grandmother would use in their cooking. That is why the quality of our suppliers is important to me. If we bring in a product that doesn’t meet our standards, we won’t sell it. It is that simple.”
Since many of us are a little out of our element when it comes to spices, I asked Tammy to give us a little Spice 101.
Question #1: How can the average consumer tell if their spices are fresh? How long should we store them in our cupboards?
Most spices that are bought in a grocery store can be sitting on their shelves for 1-2 years before you bring them home. So, most spices aren’t even fresh before you buy them. When you purchase from a spice purveyor like Spice Hound, you can smell the difference. We tell people to change out their spices once a year on average for most spices, but we know you keep them around much longer. The best thing to do is to smell your spices. If they don’t smell like they did when you bought them or if they don’t smell at all, throw them away. They won’t add much flavor to your cooking, no matter how much you add.
Question #2: What are 5 basic spices you think everyone should keep in their spice cabinet and why?
It is always so hard to advise people on what people should have in their spice cabinets because everyone comes from different cultures. Here is my stab at it:
1. Salt – We need salt to live and it’s the only mineral that we eat. So, it’s pretty important. Plus a good natural sea salt enhances the flavor of most foods. Try to have at least one good natural sea salt in your cabinet. One of my favorites is the French sea salt, Sel Gris or Grey Sea Salt. It isn’t fancy, but it sure makes everything taste incredible.
2. Pepper – There is a reason why it’s one of the best selling spices in the world. Pepper is used to liven up a meal. A lot of people have black pepper at the table, but there are many other options to choose from as well. For example, many Asian dishes incorporate white pepper. I love our Black Tellicherry Peppercorns because of their strong and slightly smoky flavor.
3. Cinnamon – It is warm, aromatic, and simply delicious. My favorite is our Vietnamese Ground Cinnamon. It has a high oil content, giving it a strong flavor.
4. Cumin - This is an amazing spice because it is used in so many cuisines like Middle Eastern, Indian and Mexican cooking. Great curries and guacamole wouldn’t be the same without cumin.
5. Crushed Red Pepper - I love heat so I like being able to sprinkle this on my soups, stews or anything I want to give some spiciness.
Question #3: While I was perusing your site, I came across something called Epazote. What is Epazote and how the heck do you use it?
Epazote is an herb primarily used in Mexican cooking. Some people think of it as a weed since it can grow pretty wild in your backyard, and it can give off a pungent aroma when its fresh. It has the special medicinal property of helping prevent…flatulence…. so it’s often used in bean dishes. Use it sparingly because it can be quite strong and overwhelm a dish.
Question #4: Which of your spice blends are Whole30 approved (meaning they contain no sugar or other off-plan ingredients)?
There are so many! All (100%) of our salts and spices meet Whole30 criteria, with no sugar added. In addition, 20 of my spice blends are also Whole30-approved. Here is a complete list of all approved blends:
- Adobo Seasoning (Mexican)
- Cajun Rub
- Chili Powder Blend
- Chinese Five Spice Powder
- Curry Powder
- Dukka (Egyptian)
- Fines Herbes
- Four Peppercorn Blend
- Garam Masala
- Garlic Sea Salt
- Herbes de Provence
- Italian Seasoning
- La Kama (Moroccan)
- Panch Phora (Bengali)
- Pumpkin Pie Spice
- Seasoning Sea Salt
- Turkey Brine
Special Discount for Whole9 Readers
From now through May 6, 2012, Whole9 readers can save 10% off your entire order at Spice Hound’s online store. Just visit http://spicehound.com and use the code “10WHOLE9“.
And be sure to check out our other fantastic Whole30 Approved partners at http://whole9life.com/whole30-approved.