Exotic spices

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Exotic spices that you just have to try! Realistically all spices are exotic. Its just we have come to know some more than others.  There are literally hundreds of spices in the world! If you pop into your local supermarket you will probably see around 30 to 40 different spices and herbs all dried and ready to buy. Then there are the pre-mixed exotic spice blends such as the Chinese 5 spice which contains cinnamon and cloves and is also the spice mix for Chinese Crispy Duck!

Some of which are extremely expensive such as Saffron and vanilla! While others where very popular a few hundred years ago and are not so much today.

Others are poisonous or hallucinogenic in larger quantities!

7 Exotic spices that are a must for any kitchen

The following 7 exotic spices are more unknown, a couple of these are making an appearance in supermarkets in the UK, others are harder to find. Each of them has their own characteristics and uses and not to mention their unique flavour profile.

I really recommend that you look out for these exotic spices and experiment with them!

Coriander Seeds

Coriander seeds

The exotic spice Coriander seed is readily available in most supermarkets in the Uk. As the name suggests, they are the seed from the herb coriander.

I love this herb, not just for the flavour that it has, which can be quite strong for some people but because all of this herb can be used. Everything from the seed to the tip!

Coriander seeds have a lovely citrusy flavour and a hint of light spice to them.

If you roast them then they become nutty. I tend not to roast them as I love the lemony flavour!

I find that putting them in a spice grinder and using them a seasoning for foods that contain lemon zest works like magic! Next time you make yourself a nice brunch, try pan frying some asparagus in lemon zest and coriander seed!

The Exotic spice Saffron

The exotic spice saffron

Saffron is the most expensive exotic spice in the world!

Even at times being more expensive than gold! Saffron is the stigma of the flower Saffron Crocus. It has been said its discovery was in Greece. However, most saffron now comes from the middle east. Sadly Wild Saffron no longer exists.

Saffron has a beautiful delicate flavour with floral notes and hints of honey. The real properties of saffron are its colouring abilities. It will quickly turn any food into a vibrant yellow!

It is a must for Paella’s. Although I If I make a Korma curry, I will also make Raita, which is an  Indian yoghurt dip. A few strands of saffron in this works wonders for the flavour and gives it a nice yellow colour!

Grains of Paradise

Grains of Paradise

If there was an award for the exotic spice with the best name, this would win! Grains a paradise. It is also known in some parts of the world as Alligator pepper. Although I much prefer the name Grains of paradise!

This was once really popular in the middle ages and substitute for black pepper. It is now making a come back.

It used to be used in alcoholic drinks up until the late 18th Century until George the 3rd forbade it use which resulted in the import of this exotic spice collapsing.

Today It is used widely in African cuisines and is also used as a botanical in Gin. It has a strong peppery flavour similar to black pepper but also has a citrus aftertaste. To use this, place in a spice grinder and in the place of pepper, especially in foods containing any form of citrus.

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir lime leaves

Technically a herb! The kaffir lime leaf is one of my favourite exotic spices! This is the leaf of a species of lime, called the kaffir lime.

The fruit is around the same size as a standard lime but has a thick bumpy skin. It is also is known as the bergamot orange in Thailand where it is native and because of this it is used widely in Thai cooking.

The Limes are incredibly hard to find in the Uk and are limited to a few south-east Asian supermarkets. The leaves are becoming more popular in the dried format, although I have seen the fresh variety about!

The flavour imparted from the lime leaves is a sweet lemony flavour and a flavour that I have only found in the lime leaf itself! I tend to use the whole leaf in cooking and leave them in! I will chew them as I like the flavour so much!

To use properly though, cut out the leaf’s stalk and slice finely.

Use Kaffir lime leaves at the start cooking and remove it afterwards, or could always leave it in like I do!

Try making a Lime sorbet adding finely sliced kaffir lime leaf to add a real twisted depth to the flavour!


The exotic spice sumac

The exotic spice Sumac is a dried and ground berry with a deep burgundy colour. It is native to the middle east and people use it widely in Middle Eastern cooking and also sometimes in Mediterranean cooking.

Sumac has a tangy lemony flavour and has a better balance than lemon juice.

Try using this exotic spice in the place of lemon in salad dressings and using it as a seasoning on pan fried chicken and serving it with couscous.


vanilla pod

You may not think vanilla is an exotic spice but it is the second most expensive spice after Saffron. It is also the most imitated spice on the planet! This is because of the cost of producing it and the demand for it.

Take a look at the ingredients list of a box of premium ice cream next time you are in the supermarket. It may or may not surprise to you find ingredients such as, ‘vanilla pod pieces’ or spent vanilla pod’ in it. Pick up a bottle of vanilla flavouring and you will be lucky to find anything vanilla in it!

Use real vanilla where you can, it is a bit more expensive but the results are so much better! Try making a Creme Brûlée with them, the results are amazing!

Tonka Beans

the exotic spice tonka bean

Tonka beans. This exotic spice is illegal in the United States! Still, it doesn’t mean that you can’t find it! The United States is one of the biggest importers of tonka beans in the world! The spice is native to the central Americas, with Brazil and Venezuela being the biggest exporters.

Tonka beans are toxic but only if consumed in large amounts. The reason that they are illeagal in the United States, is because tests conducted on rats(!) in the 1950s concluded that they are harmful too rats. They are harmful to us but only in large quantities, more cases are report of babies getting sick from honey than Tonka beans, so it’s probably a bit over the top!

Tonka beans have a wonderful aroma! The perfume industry uses them a lot because of this. The aroma a complex smell of, vanilla, cherries, almonds and spice.

Use this exotic spice in place of vanilla. It also makes wonderful ice cream!

I really hope that you have enjoyed my guide to exotic spices.  If you feel that I have missed an important one out or one shouldn’t be on this list let me know in the comments box below!

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