January 25, 2006

Spice tour on Zanzibar

For me, spices ususally come in little red plastic bottles with perferated plastic tops. Or if I decided to splurge, spices would come in glass bottles instead.

We took a tour of a spice plantation on Zanzibar, one of the spice islands. It was fun to see what spices and other natural products really look like in the wild, before processing. On the surface, the plants don’t look like much, and it is amazing how only a very small part of the plant is used. Ginger and tumeric are roots, citronella is isolated from leaves, cloves are dried flowers, nutmeg is a seed, and so on. (See picture. The red covering over the seed is another spice, mace.)

It was really interesting to see fresh vanilla beans, as I would only recognize the black dried up shriveled pods (see picture).

Some of the best food yet was the lunch on the Spice tour. We were served Rice Pilau, spiced with cardomom, cloves, and cinnamon bark, and topped with a coconut curry. I must try to duplicate this when I get back home. It was absolutely delicious. We had a great time, sitting on straw mats in a concrete thatched hut in the countryside of Zanzibar, eating in the 95 degree humid heat.

It killed me that I couldn’t buy some of the spices there at the end of the tour. 50 cents for 12 whole nutmeg seeds, pouches of cardomom seeds, tumeric, cinnamon. Besides being very pricey in the US, I’ve been wanting to experiment with the cardomom ice cream/ cardomom cake recipe in Ming Tsai’s first cookbook, but had been too cheap to bring myself to buy the spice in its seed form.

Sadly, I knew it would be pointless to ship them back to the US to sit around for a year losing their aroma while I continued traveling. Oh well…a small price to pay to be able to travel :)

1 Comment

  1. We buy bags of cardamom pods at Indian markets in the US. We’ve luckily lived in areas with significant Indian populations and we love browsing the markets where they shop. I don’t remember how much less they are than in spice stores, but it’s definitely cheaper.

    Comment by Lilly — February 17, 2006 @ 5:39 am

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