With the exception of people like Mark Zuckerberg wearing his grey Brunello Cucinelli t-shirts almost every day, or the late Steve Jobs' famous black turtleneck, jeans and new balance sneakers, the rest of us prefer having a variety of colors, textures, and different accessories in our closets. This adds personality to our fashion and gives us the chance to spice up our entire look whenever we desire.
Some rules apply to the whole fashion world: for example, it doesn’t matter how much you love that new floral dress that makes you feel like royalty or the blue shirt that compliments your skin tone so perfectly – you can’t put them on every day otherwise it loses that magic effect it had and gets pretty boring.
You must be confused as to why we are talking about fashion in a column titled “Foodie Fix”, but hold on a bit and you will see the connection. In our nature we desire change, variety and bringing out the best from everything.
Food isn’t exceptional; people have come up with thousands of spices to excite our taste buds, extract flavor, and add color to give that necessary kick to a rather boring food item.
So I’m going to suggest some ‘must-have’s’ for any spice cabinet, the criteria being ones that are easily available on the Rwandan market (both the traditional farmers market and different supermarkets around town).
Now, I do not intend to turn you into a spice addict, but I can guarantee you that adding a couple of new spices to your kitchen cabinet will ‘up’ your cooking game, resulting into mouth-watering meals each time – and that’s what we are aiming for.
Salt: You may think this is obvious but it isn’t! Too little of it will make your food bland and excess will make your food not edible, so always strike for a balance – start with little, then add if necessary. Fine salt is stronger in taste, so go for sea salt or kosher for roasted items. T2000 mall (in town) carries different varieties at an affordable price.
From sea salt to Himalayan, different types of salt.(photo courtesy Healthline)
Pepper: It comes as whole peppercorns or grounded, black or white. It is deemed the ‘king of spices’ for it is the best-loved spice and widely used. It adds heat and depth to nearly every dish especially soups, stocks and meat rubs. I would recommend buying the whole and grind them as needed, I feel it is tastier than the ground one.
Black peppercorns & crushed pepper.(photo courtesy Spice Jungle)
Garlic: Some people do not fancy the smell of garlic because of how it leaves a mouth smelling in the aftermath, but if cooked well that scent totally disappears. For example, it is advised to add garlic just after you add onions to sauté, to extract all the aroma – but keep an eye out because garlic burns in just seconds, and that brings a bitter taste. If fresh garlic bothers you, the powdered variety available is more forgiving and adds the same taste. It is pungent and bold in flavor, so go slow on it, a little bit goes a long way.
Garlic cloves (photo courtesy Editor’s Choice)
Ginger: Well-known for that refreshing ‘African tea’ flavor, this humble root adds that lingering and pleasant spicy flavor to your dish and cleanses the palate; pair it with greasy foods, and add to the meat marinade. Keep in mind that it is spicy!
Ginger root & dried ginger provide excellent health benefits. (photo courtesy Best Health)
Rosemary: The strong, pine flavor of rosemary pairs well with eggs, potatoes and all meats – again a little bit goes a long way.
Dried rosemary (photo courtesy Spice Jungle)
Thyme: It offers a subtle yet savory note to a number of dishes like soups, sauces and roasts. It is available in its fresh form or ground.
Fresh thyme(photo courtesy History.com)
Cinnamon: Described as woody and sweet, cinnamon adds warmth to both sweet and savory dishes. My favorite is cinnamon rolls (will share the recipe in the near future)!
Cinnamon sticks & powder (photo courtesy Signature Market)
Cloves: It is aromatic and tasty, and should be added to enhance the flavor of meats, curries, and marinades.
Whole cloves (photo courtesy Healthline)
Cumin: This nutty-flavored spice pairs well with curries, and is used to give a beautiful taste to most ethnic rice dishes. One that comes in mind is the Uzbek ‘ploy‘ which is just delectable ( if you hang around ‘Foodie Fix’ you will get to know how to prepare that).
Cumin forms the basis of ‘masala’ dishes (photo courtesy Times of India)
There is an endless list of amazing spices out there, but let’s keep it short for now; just walk into a supermarket or the famers market, pick 3 or 4 spices, experiment with them and see how it goes.
Where to buyKimironko Market sells spices per spoon, which I found so cool – it allows you to sample different ones without necessary being stuck with the supermarket big bottles. One spoon is around 300 Rwf. Ask for Mama Nelly, she works near the vegetable stands in the entrance nearest to the Bus Park.
Simba supermarket has a pretty big selection, so does Frulep. Price ranges 1200 Rwf and 2000 Rwf, but the quantity will last you a long while, so it’s worth it.
Just like clothes, make sure you try different spice pairings, change them often and have variety.
So happy exploring, shock your taste buds with the unusual bold flavors and you won’t turn back again! Bon appétit!