Help Me Stock a Global Kitchen
November 21, 2016 4:52 PM   Subscribe

If you were stocking a kitchen for people from all over the world, what seasonings would you buy? What are the five to ten spices or spice mixes essential to any country's cuisine?

Bonus points for Africa, (e.g. Somalia and Eritrea) Central and South America, and the Middle East?
posted by sleepy psychonaut to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Cumin powder
Coriander powder
Fennel seeds
Cinnamon sticks
(From an Indian perspective but I checked and many of these are common to Middle Eastern cooking also)
posted by peacheater at 4:59 PM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

For middle eastern flavors:

For south East Asian (many of these can be bought dried or fresh):
Star anise
Kaffir lime leaves
Fish sauce

Central America:
Mexican oregano
Lemon verbena
Dried orange peel

There's a good list of Indian spices above, but I'd like to add
And hing
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 5:09 PM on November 21, 2016

Peachester's list is great. I would leave out caraway, maybe. I never ever use that.

Bay Leaves
Ginger Powder
Garlic Powder
White Pepper
Black Pepper
Sesame Seeds
Wasabi Powder

Mustard Seed or Mustard Powder if you are feeling sassy.
Dried whole peppers, if you have space.

Oils? Vinegars? Fish Sauce? Soy Sauce? Ketchup.

I keep those last 5 items in the fridge.
posted by jbenben at 5:12 PM on November 21, 2016

To clarify, I am interested in sets of spices particular to a cuisine, not a list of spices that exist, although that's interesting too!
posted by sleepy psychonaut at 5:16 PM on November 21, 2016

Oh if fresh things are ok I would add the following to my list above for Indian cooking:
Green chiles
Cilantro leaves (Coriander leaves)
posted by peacheater at 5:19 PM on November 21, 2016

The dried spices/mixes I always keep on hand are:

garam masala
"Italian mix" (which is basically oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil & rosemary)
cinnamon (ground and sticks)
bay leaf
(green) cardamom
Aleppo pepper

This will let you cook a lot of basic North Indian and Middle Eastern/Mediterranean dishes, as well as some Latin American ones. Ideally, I'd also have black mustard seed, amchur, five spice powder, and za'atar on hand too.
posted by karayel at 5:41 PM on November 21, 2016

Oh, and for East African cooking, a good berbere mix.
posted by karayel at 5:42 PM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Togo/ Ghana: don't really know what it's called other than hot pepper powder (dried hot red peppers crushed to powder), magi/bouillon cubes, ginger, salt, black pepper. Tomato paste is used in so many dishes that I almost consider it a spice in the sense that it's a pantry essential.
posted by raccoon409 at 5:52 PM on November 21, 2016

North Africa/Morocco: preserved lemons, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ground ginger, sweet paprika, aniseed, and sesame seed

Vietnam: lime, basil

Ethiopia: fenugreek, berbere spice mixture (which contains fenugreek)

Greece: feta, dill, yogurt, lemon, tahini

Note about spice mixtures: I like to make them _without_ any hot peppers, then add the hot pepper to taste at time of cooking. That way, they are suitable for everyone.

Another note about spice mixtures: if you let ground spices sit for a long time, they lose flavor. Dramatically. Many cultures specify roasting whole spices a little, then grinding them, then using them immediately. I've also been known to keep spices in the freezer to preserve their flavor.
posted by amtho at 6:00 PM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pimento (aka Allspice), Thyme, clove, tamrind, cayenne
Ginger, Scotch bonnet/Habernero, scallions, molasses

Five spice powder, dark soy sauce, rice wine, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, schezuan pepercorns, dried mushrooms, oyster sauce
Ginger, garlic, scallions

Cayenne, white pepper, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, bay, paprika
garlic, bell pepper, onion, celery

Other odds and ends:

Epazote (great with black beans), Goya sazon, smoked paprika
posted by Diablevert at 6:54 PM on November 21, 2016

salt, black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes, cumin, coriander, paprika, oregano, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger.
posted by cabingirl at 6:57 PM on November 21, 2016

Berbere -- "It is a key ingredient in the cuisines of Ethiopia and Eritrea." (Very warming and delicious.)

Also of interest on Wikipedia: List of spice mixes
posted by kmennie at 9:46 AM on November 22, 2016

Nordic cuisine:

salt, pepper
apple cider vinegar
cinnamon (for desserts/baking only)
posted by coraline at 10:30 AM on November 22, 2016

Track down a copy of the cookbook "The Enchanted Broccolli Forest". It's by one of the original Moosewood Restaurant folks, and while I also recommend it in general, you may be interested in the chart they have in the back that discusses the spices, cheeses, and oils used in different cuisines.

That said, some others -

* cumin is also used a lot in Mexican cooking, and also in Central Asian cooking.
* Ras al hanout is a spice blend used in North African cooking a lot, but it passes for curry in a pinch.
* then there's a good herbes de Provence blend for French cooking.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:03 PM on November 22, 2016

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