The Origins of Curry Powder

Where did curry powder come from? There is no real equivalent in authentic subcontinental cuisines for a ready-made powder. The closest thing to a curry powder is a masala, and that is almost always more of a paste than a powder because of the addition of wet and dry ingredients to the mix. On the subcontinent, seeds and roots, etc. are roasted, ground and mixed … Read more

Flowers that Have Changed the World of Food 3: Cloves

“And somewhere near India is the island containing the Valley of the Cloves. No merchants or sailors have ever been to the valley or have seen the kind of tree that produces cloves: its fruit, they say, is sold by genies . . . the islanders feed on them, and they never fall ill or grow old.” – Summary of Marvels (Ibrahim ibn Wasif-Shah, ca. … Read more

Sage, Rosemary and Thyme – Not Wine!

With the help of DNA analysis, scientists are getting a present-day look at centuries-old trade in the Mediterranean. Such studies may help debunk some long-held assumptions, namely that the bulk of Greek commerce revolved around wine. During the fifth through third centuries BCE, the Mediterranean and Black seas were major thoroughfares for ships loaded with thousands of amphorae, thought from their shape to contain wine. … Read more

Patterns of Asian Spice Mixes

Many chefs and cookbook authors spend their careers touting the unique aspects of the cuisines they cook and write about. I’m different from most. I look around and see nothing but commonalities and connections between the major Asian cuisines. In The Silk Road Gourmet Cookbook, I write a lot about how ingredients and dishes swirl in patterns across Asia and tell us a lot about … Read more

Salt – Part 1: Introduction and Prehistory

Salt – our oldest flavoring. Integral to plant and animal physiology, we need it to live. Vast empires have been built on its tax or on its trade. Protests have been lodged, wars have been fought over the means of its production, and men have died for the control of salt sources. In addition, we have many ritual uses for salt. Many religions use it … Read more

Take Two Curries and Call Me in the Morning #2

Once again, its time to look at some of the health benefits of Asian ingredients. Like the previous post that extolled the medicinal virtues of turmeric, marigold, coriander, black onion seed and bay leaves, this post will look at the uses of cumin, black cumin, cardamom, black cardamon and fenugreek both in the kitchen and in the armamentarium of treatments used by doctors and pharmacists … Read more

1001 Tales from the Spice Trade: Cinnamon

We take so much for granted these days.  Almost every household cupboard has ground cinnamon or cinnamon sticks in them.  Mass produced cinnamon is cheap and readily available at almost every market and even higher quality cinnamon sticks from the far reaches of the globe are accessible and relatively affordable via the internet.   In times past, however, spices were rare and expensive and significant portions … Read more