Exotic Spices Worth trying

For some people, salt and pepper are the standard in home cooking. For a little kick they may add garlic powder or chili powder to certain dishes. That is all fine and well, but there are some folks that prefer to add a little international pizzazz to their culinary efforts. When trying to decide what to try, give these exotic delights a whirl: 

*Truffle salt. Made from black summer truffles and sea salt, this blend is a real treat on grilled meats and scrambled eggs. It is also good on roasted potatoes and buttered popcorn. Truffle salt is made from fresh black summer truffles found in Abruzzi, Italy. It makes a great finishing touch to many dishes.

*Fennel pollen. Grown in California and native to Italy, it takes a lot of fennel seeds to make this sweet pollen. It is wonderful on pork roast, vegetables and even sprinkled on salads. It adds a burst of flavor to fish like salmon. It might be slightly expensive to purchase, but it will last for quite awhile since a pinch is all you need to add to any dish.

*Asafetida. This fennel-like plant grows in India and Iran and is very popular in Indian cooking. The part that is used is a dried resin that has a very strong odor until cooked. The cooked resin adds an onion/garlic flavor and is used in small quantities. Asafetida is good in bean and lentil soups.

*Urfa biber. Native to Turkey, urfa is a chili pepper (biber means pepper in Turkish). The chilies are dried and the flakes are what is used in cooking. Urfa biber has a smoky flavor and is good in kebabs and with cheeses like feta.   

*Sumac. The sumac spice comes from the berry of the plant, Rhus coraria. The plant is found in the Middle East and parts of Italy. Sumac has a sour, astringent flavor and is great on grilled meats and fish. It is also used to season rice.

If you cannot find these or other exotic spices in your local grocer’s market, a quick online search can yield many websites where you can order them. 

Whether you are looking to try a recipe from a foreign country or just wanting to dress up an old favorite, adding an exotic spice can do the trick. Even though you may have not heard of these and other exotic spices, as the saying goes, “Don’t knock it till you try it”. You might just find your next “go to” spice among the international flavors available in many markets.