14 Undiscovered Spices You Need To Try
5 years, 2000+ ounces of spices, here are some hall of famers.
T Bone Spice// Greenpoint Trading Co. // Brooklyn, NY
But if you’d rather cook the cow yourself, we have you covered. Or at least the steak. Greenpoint Trading’s blending warehouse on the industrial outskirts of Brooklyn is an incongruously fragrant portal to paradise: baskets and barrels of paprika and cayenne, coffee and turmeric awaiting hand-mixing into rubs like this. A life-changing replacement for your plain table salt, it also makes a perfect rub for any meat, not just the eponymous cut. We like skirt steak, a half-inch thick, brought to room temperature, rubbed, and quickly grilled.
Tandoori Rub // Acanela // Los Angeles, CA
Not your typical spice shop, Acanela is more a travel company, leading adventure tours to artisan communities around the globe, so they know a thing or two about eating well, and eating exotic. Missed the boat on their latest expedition? At least you can take your taste buds. This rub is the classic mix of spices like cumin and turmeric with a special kick from a bit of dried mango. Mix with yogurt and honey for a sultry chicken-wing marinade: let them sit for a few hours then bake at 400 degrees during half time. Serve with cilantro and an IPA.
Harissa // EnTube // Los Angeles, CA
An ancient, North African paste, harissa is like a souk in a spoonful: heaps of sun-dried peppers, mountains of fragrant spice, pulverized into paste. It’s as common as ketchup in Tunisia, but a rare sight here in the land of, well, ketchup (which is actually Chinese — but we’ll get to that another time). Thankfully, there’s EnTube. The eponymous packaging isn’t the only modern touch: EnTube’s special mix adds the Amazonian Acerola berry, a citrusy powerhouse of Vitamin C. Clear out your cupboard — ketchup, mustard, hot sauce — harissa can replace it all. Drizzle on meatballs, or mix right into them: blend with ground lamb, minced onion, breadcrumbs, and egg, ball up, sear quickly, then simmer in tomatoes (and more harissa) for twenty minutes until cooked.
Piri Piri Salt // The Chili Lab // Brooklyn, NY
Proper peppers should pack more than just heat — and no one knows that better than the Chili Lab, an iron-tongued group of adventurers who scour the Scoville scale for the world’s best, boldest sauces and salts. Swahili for pepper, piri piris have an herbacious, citrussy bite — thirty times as hot as jalapeños, but infinitely brighter and more nuanced. Give your grill some jungle vibes by tossing on a few salted pineapple slices, and serve diced with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.
Smoked Sea Salt // Bulls Bay Saltworks // McClellanville, SC
On every table, in every takeout bag, on every pantry shelf: shakers and packets, boxes and bags. Salt: ubiquitous and placeless. It’s everywhere, so it comes, it seems, from nowhere. But the funny thing about salt, is despite the industrial-scale machinations that dust it so liberally into our lives, it’s damn low-tech to make. One part seawater, two parts sun. Oh yeah, and the most important part — a person. At Bull’s Bay, that’s Rustin and Teresa Gooden, who wade out into the South Carolina seashore (a national wildlife refuge no less — the water’s filtered by delicious Bulls Bay oysters), to harvet seawater they then dry under the southern sun and smoke over oak chips. After all that work, these crystals deserve a proper setting: like a homemade artisanal pretzel.
Soul Dust // Southern Soul BBQ // St. Simons Island, GA
Every state’s barbecue has its secret touch, from Kansas City’s sweet sauces to Texas’s slow-cooked brisket. Most, unfortunately, stay that way: tight-lipped pitmasters keep their tricks close to the vest. Not here. This gas-station-turned-grill is a mecca for Georgia’s famous dry-rubbed ‘cue, and lucky for you, happy to share. Their Soul Dust makes a perfect marinade, a lip-tingling replacement for the salt on your cocktail glass, or, if you’re crazy, both. Soak shrimp in olive oil and Soul Dust for twenty minutes and grill; then rim a glass with more Dust, fill with your favorite bloody mary, and garnish with shrimp.
JM Thomason Hot Chicken Rub // Nashville, TN
A Nashville staple since the 1930s, the city’s eponymous hot chicken puts other fried fowl to shame — acronym-ed birds that shall not be mentioned here cower in their cardboard buckets before its blistering crust of garlic, cayenne, and onion. JM Thomason’s been peddling rubs like this for decades, and their blend packs just the right punch. Rub on, chill, then dredge in a whisked mix of eggs, buttermilk and, if you want even more heat, a squirt of hot sauce. Then dust with flour and fry. For an authentic Nashville plate, toss onto a slice of white bread and top with pickles. No silverware, extra napkins, and lots of ice water.
Chili Spice // Oaktown Spice Shop // Oakland, CA
Leftover turkey screams sandwich — and there’s nothing wrong with going classic. But for a bit of a twist, turn that bird into a bone-sticking bowl of chili by simmering some slices with tomatoes, beans, a bit of garlic, and a dash of Oaktown’s special spice blend (Santa Fe or Regular). Got a bowl of mash at hand? Top a ramekin with a scoop or two of potatoes and bake to brown for a shepherd’s pie worth selling the flock for.
Bourbon Smoked Sugar // Bourbon Barrel Foods // Louisville, KY
A spoonful of sugar can chase the toughest-to-take pill, as our favorite flying nanny told us — or with the addition of whisky, it can be the medicine itself. These raw crystals, smoked over smoldering bourbon barrel staves, will cure whatever ails you, from a lagging julep (sprinkle around the rim) to a last-minute dessert: mix a dash into melted butter, brush onto peach halves, and toss on the grill to caramelize.
Olo’s Chipotle // Olo Foods // Seattle, WA
Sure, you can buy the dried peppers, toast them in cast-iron, heft out the molcajete, mash them till your manos ache — and then avoid touching anything, er, sensitive for the rest of the night. Or you can crack a tube of Olo’s. Dial in the heat — two teaspoons is about a full can of chilies — smear it straight, or mix a dollop with mayo to spread on fresh-grilled ears for a classic elote.
Just Cook // Ancho Rub // San Francisco, CA
Despite the proliferation of Old El Paso dust packets in households across America, 50 year old Scott Lucas decided to leverage 20 years of software sales experience and take a stand. Wait, what? A software guy making spice rubs? Yep, like the quiet kid in the corner of the class that secretly knows Karate, Scott has a knack for kicking things up. Ground ancho chiles (the dried version of a poblano, which originated in the Mexican state of Puebla) are cut with smoky chipotle and aromatic orange peel. Just rub on chicken or snapper, grill and toss in a tortilla with a stripe of Verde. Tasty and easy enough to execute after one too many tequilas.
Bourbon Smoked Peppercorns // Bourbon Barrel Foods // Louisville, KY
Matt Jamie uses Bourbon Barrel Staves to slow smoke cracked peppercorns taking pepper in the opposite direction of those sand shakers adorning diner tables. Sub in early and often for regular pepper to add a wispy hint of smoke. We recommend dressing down some arugula with bourbon sorghum vinaigrette to cap off a Smoked Pepper Crusted Steak Sarnie on crusty bread.
Pork Rub // Hot Hot Fish Club // Birmingham, AL
Chef Chris Hastings is celebrated for bringing modern refinement to Southern ingredients, working closely with local farmers and gulf fisherman to churn out plates that netted him the 2012 JB award for Best Chef South. This gent has also spent enough time in Bama to know a thing or two about pork. Guarded almost as closely as Nick Saban’s playbook, his house blend is a smoky rub that will perk up anything from ribs to a blackened fish taco.
Alder Smoked Sea Salt // Alaska Pure Sea Salt Co. // Sitka, Alaska
One morning, Jim and Darcy Michener awoke to find salt forming on the surface of a pan of sea water they’d left on their cabin stove overnight. Luckily this sparked an idea (not a fire) and for the next 10 years the two tweaked turning buckets of pristine Gulf of Alaska water into a flaked salt that has graced the tables of some of the nations top restaurants. Jim, that old salty dog, was not only the Wilderness Survival Instructor for the US Coast Guard but NFL locker room legend. Indianapolis Colt Lineman Rick Demulling would often rile up his teammates telling the ’07 tale of a fateful fishing trip when Jim (his guide at the time) ditched his rod, gaffed a free swimming Pink Salmon and bit it’s head off. Jim, who happens to be a salt of the earth type of a guy, was “more impressed Rick drank 30 beers”.
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