April 1, 2011

Serious Spice

Readers, meet Furikake.

Furikake is a magnificent Japanese seasoning made of sesame seeds, bonito flakes (dried fish), nori, and that enigmatic fifth flavor, umami.

And guess what? While most Furikake mixes contain MSG, you can find no-salt, no MSG versions at your favorite Asian market. With just a few shakes, you can infuse dishes with exotic Eastern flavors. And your new friend, salt-free Furikake, can be used to spice up pickling blends; home-made sushi; or as a decorative and delicious topping for a simple rice bowl.

Furikake can even help you more accurately recreate low sodium versions of traditional Japanese dishes, like this onigiri ball.

Now, meet my friend Max.

He writes for a little online site called Serious Eats. You may have heard of it.

Max likes Furikake too.

As well as cardamom. Grains of paradise. Kodampuli. Vadouvan. Sumac. Pandan. Hyssop. Fenugreek. And Cinnamon.

If it looks like I just made all those words up, I swear, I didn’t. They are all real spices. That’s the truth.

But even if you held a salt shaker to my throat, I couldn’t tell you what they look like. How they smell. Or what kind of foods to pair them with. So I might as well have invented them.

My friend, Max, on the other hand, can give you all the dirty details. He’s a spice hunter. He can wax poetics about mace and paprika until the cows come home. And, of course, he’ll provide an innovative recipe in which to use them too. Not the cows. The spices.

Max and his column on SeriousEats.com – Spice Hunting – are an essential resource for low sodium cooks everywhere.

As a Spice Hunter, he is proof that flavor comes in all shapes, sizes, and languages. Not just white, small, and salty. And in following Max’s lead, you will quickly become a more creative and risk-taking cook. And your food and cocktail chit chat will become increasingly more interesting too. Who needs to talk about weather when you have coriander to contemplate?

So I encourage you all to dive head first into Max’s world of spices. Taste the rainbow, or maybe more appropriately, the United Nations of flavor and see how just a sprinkle of something different can awaken even the simplest of meals.

And if Vadouvan sounds more like voodo than dinner, start with his Top Ten List of the spices that should be in your pantry right now. Who knows what new food friends you’ll make?

Happy hunting.

Chow on.

AP April 12, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Love furikake! My friend Deb used it to coat some spam musubi balls at a potluck last year at my house. She injected the spam balls with sriracha, too for a bit of spice. You just reminded me to go pick some of the spice up!

Matthew Artero November 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm

WHAT!? I live three hours away from Tokyo by plane and I have to learn there is a salt free version from someone who lives on the other side of the Pacific Ocean?

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