Spices are an essential component to my kitchen and I’ve been in search of spice stores around Hong Kong to help me replenish my drawers when I run out. Not only do spices add colour and flavour to your food, but the many health benefits that they provide to your body can help decrease your blood pressure while saving your kidneys from overworking. Replacing some of the salt you normally put in your food with more spices can decrease the chances of disease as well as providing you with a more colourful life.
Seasoning your food with the right spice can really make a difference to the flavor and aroma to the dishes you prepare. Especially when you want to watch your salt or sodium intake, spices can give you the benefits of the polyphenols and antioxidants while increasing the level of complexity in your food. My kitchen does not feel right without some cinnamon, turmeric, coriander seeds, paprika, saffron and ginger.
People started using cinnamon centuries ago with savory dishes and it has made its way into many dessert recipes. It used to be a symbol of wealth when one can afford to buy such spices from the east, but now as a widely available spice, you do not have to hesitate to sprinkle cinnamon on slices of apple, on your yoghurt, in your oatmeal or even on a piece of toast with some peanut butter and honey.
I’ve recently had some amazing Moroccan lamb shoulder Tagine at Rachel’s Kitchen with a hefty amount of cinnamon, which gave this dish its lovely character. I suggest you try it with chicken as well. Cinnamon has been studied vastly among the diabetic population because it has an affect on the glucose regulation in the body. According to the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, cinnamon has a hand in decreasing fasting glucose readings and can even decrease body fat, BMI and triglyceride levels. I use a cinnamon stick as a stir stick in my tea, it will give you lasting aroma for up to 5-6 hot water refills.
A very yellow tuber, Turmeric, has been quite the center of attention because it’s been attached to Alzheimer’s Disease and other degenerative illnesses due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects from the curcumin in this spice.
In 2012, a research study published in Ayurveda mentioned how patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia had significantly improved symptoms with a decrease in their burden on caregivers and were able to recognize family members after a year’s supplementation of Turmeric without any adverse effects. India has one of the lowest percentage of people affected by Alzheimer’s Disease over the age of 65 where turmeric is a staple food. I am often left with yellow stained fingers while marinating meats and using turmeric powder in fried rice, but the health benefits totally outweigh the staining power of this spice.
Saffron, the precious red pollen from a flower gives a royal orange tinge to many dishes; a famous one includes the Spanish Paella.
I remember having the most scrumptious paella in Barcelona with one of my best friends Leonie – a lasting memory that will be forever implanted in my mind as one of my first experiences with saffron. With its very distinct aroma and taste, it cannot easily be replaced with anything else.
This spice has also been studied to have effects on maintaining cardiovascular health. The Journal of Tehran Health Centre has published an evidence-based review about the effects of saffron on lowering cholesterol and keeping blood vessels healthy with its anti-inflammatory properties. Also with benefits of powerful components like carotenoids in saffron, it can provide medical benefits such as protecting our eyes from age-related macular degeneration.
Saffron has also been studied to reveal appetite decreasing effects therefore, benefitting people struggling with their weight, helping them eat less. What more can you ask for in a spice that provide a beautiful colour to your dishes, gives good flavour and keeps you fit!
I cannot leave out ginger in many of the Asian dishes that I love, especially with seafood. Along with its anti-microbial, antioxidant and antiemetic abilities, ginger has also been linked to cancer prevention in the Critical Reviews of Food Science and Nutrition published in 2011. It is great in curries, teas and even in desserts of all sorts.
In Hong Kong, spices are not so difficult to come by, it is a matter of knowing where to find them. After moving to Sai Ying Pun, I’ve discovered Spice Box Organics on Third Street where they carry a smorgasbord of organic spices and health products.
What Spice Box may not have are some chinese herbs and spices that are seen in Asian cooking. In that case you may want to check out Yuan Heng Spice Co. in Tung Street, Sheung Wan. If there are specific Thai or other Southeast Asian spices that you are looking for, the small Thai shops near Wan Chai wet market or the ones in Kowloon City are the best places to shop at. I always find the best fresh lemongrass at Cheong Thai Food (HK) Ltd.
Happy Spice Shopping!