As I was jotting down the measurements for the Lamb Shawarma I got to thinking how intimidating that seemingly never-ending list of spices must be. I mean really, at 5 dollars a pop you’ve practically handed over a day’s wages for one meal. Then you have twice as many ounces as you really need and there they are, staring at you from your cabinet, waiting to get tossed in the next “big clean”.
Here I am to tell you that the right assortment of spices will carry you through every recipe with ease and you don’t have to become penniless in the process. My list of go-to spices changes depending on the ethnic phase I’m going through. Currently? Middle-Eastern. Meaning strong scents of: Cumin, coriander, cardamom, sumac and cloves. Come Summer I’ll revert back to more simple Mediterranean fare and forgo hardy spices for fresh herbs and mixed ground pepper and salt.
While I don’t always use recipes now, that was the ticket to assembling a spice cabinet that works for you. With each recipe, I’d buy small amounts of the necessary spices. As time went on, I learned what I needed most and bought larger quantities so I could experiment as I wished. It’s really fun, I promise!
Philly has to be one of the greatest places to stock up on a wide variety of spices on a budget… and I haven’t even dabbled in all of the ethnic foods our city has to offer. Below are a few of my favorites. It should come as no surprise that this is my stomping ground! I mean Sabrina’s, Royal Tavern and Bibou?!
The Spice Corner 904 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147 For an incredible variety of spices, teas, coffee, flour, sugar, grains, and dried fruit
My gosh, I love this place. It’s one of my favorite places in the city and I go here all of the time. It’s run by a no-nonsense Roman woman who makes the experience. A huge portion of my spice collection is from here. They sell spices in 1 oz bags.
Fante’s Kitchenwares 1006 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147 Further South on 9th street is my favorite place in the city (you’ve already read about my love affair with Fante’s) In addition to every tool you need, they have a nice assortment of salts and peppers and an incredible variety of coffee, roasted and not. Upstairs, there is every type of baking ingredient you can imagine, including all sorts of extracts. The folks that work here are incredibly knowledgeable too!
Bitars Middle Eastern Deli 947 Federal St, Philadelphia, PA 19147 I found out about this place from friends who always served the best hummus, babaganoush and dolmas (all from here). In addition to their inexpensive sandwiches and platters, they have all sorts of middle-eastern spices and ingredients that you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. OH and their desserts are incredible.
So how about you, Philly folks, where do you like to stock up? And if you’re an online shopper, what’s your go-to site?