What’s Cookin’ in the Kitchen: 5 Great Spices
You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Have you ever wanted to shake up your regular cooking routine with a bit more pizzazz? Instead of garlic powder or thyme, why not reach for a different spice instead? Add an exotic flair to all your meals with at least five spices you’ve probably never heard of.

Tasmanian Pepper
Origin: Australia

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? This peppery berry in dried form adds a serious tingle to the taste buds, more so than the more common pepper, so don’t substitute it for your tin of McCormick’s just yet. What’s unusual about Tasmanian pepper, however, is that you’ll also get a hint of floral notes, which makes it surprisingly delicious when used in infusions such as cooking oils, honey or vodka. The leaves of the Tasmanian pepper can also be used in ground-dried-concentrated form.

Alderwood Smoked Salt
Origin: Pacific Northwest

Want to add robust smoky flavor to your food? Forget the liquid smoke—that’s so yesterday. This sea salt is naturally smoked over red alderwood from the Pacific Northwest. It’s deep, rich hue contains no artificial coloring or flavors. A little goes a long way, and it’s perfect as a finishing salt for meats and fish, use a pinch in creamy pasta dishes or give your potatoes a new wow factor.

Ras el Hanout
Origin: Arabic Countries

Many people believe that curry to be a single spice but it’s actually a blend of various spices. What curry is to India, ras el hanout is to Morocco. This vibrant blend is usually the crème de la crème of a spice merchant’s wares. With no definitive mixture (it can consist of ten or more ingredients ground together), it can vary in its mélange from one shop to the next. However, the end result is typically a mix that is excellent when used as a meat rub or in stews. Check with your local spice merchant to sample his individual combination.

Origin: India, Pakistan

Asafetida, a/k/a Devil’s Dung, is a leafy plant that is stink personified, thanks to the natural sulfurous compounds. However, in powder form when hit with a modest shot of heat the putrid odor evaporates. What’s left is a wonderful garlicky-oniony aroma and leek-like flavor that makes you want to close your eyes and sniff. Asafetida is widely used throughout India, especially in vegetarian dishes.

Mace Powder
Origin: Indonesia

Did you know that the nutmeg tree spawns more edible goodness than just the nut? Hugging the inner shell is what’s known as mace blades, which wrap themselves lovingly around the center pit. The blades are ground into powder form, which mutes the flavor somewhat. The savory hints go well with meats, pates and mashed potatoes, but it’s also great sprinkled on sweet dishes such as fruit.

Check with your local spice merchant for these and other spices. Also try:

In New York:

Kalustyans, 123 Lexington Avenue, NY 1-800-352-3451
Spice and Tease, 2580 Broadway, NY 347-470-8327
Ninth Avenue International, 543 Ninth Avenue, NY 212-279-1000
Sahadi’s, 187 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 718-624-4550

In Connecticut:

The Spice Mill, 191 Adams Street, Manchester, CT 1-800-645-3853
Edge of the Woods Organic Market, 379 Whalley Ave., New Haven, CT 203-787-1055

In the Capitol District:

Ginger & Spice Market, 6548A Little River Tpke, Alexandria, VA 703-916-1818

About Valerie Albarda (35 Articles)
Valerie is a lover of all things food, including writing about it and devouring it. An avid traveler, she loves to soak up the culture of the places she visits and explore the culinary treasures wherever she goes. She is the author of "An Affair to Remember: Bellissimo Italia" which chronicles her traveling and dining experience in Venice, Florence and the Tuscan countryside. Valerie is currently working on her second book, "From City to Safari: One Woman's Exploration of Johannesburg".