Kalustyan's: New York's Mecca of Spices

By: Ashley Bode

One of the greatest challenges in preparing traditional dishes can be finding the right ingredients; in particular, the right spices. New York City is plentiful in both many nationalities and their corresponding food traditions. Spices are no different.

On Lexington Avenue, between 28th and 29th streets in Little India on the border of Murray Hill,also known as Curry Hill, sits a particular spice-infused institution that that can help. Since 1944, Kalustyan's has been providing generations of New Yorkers with an array of spices that is hard to match. Originally, the spice shop was home to only Indian spices and groceries, but has since taken the title of an international specialty food and spice shop.

The tiny storefront is misleading, as any visitor will notice. Once inside, it feels as though you've stepped into a cave that is hiding the finest of jewels on earth.   All your senses are bombarded with energy the storefronts sign failed to hint at. Smells of the sandwich counter in the back fill your nose, mingling with the scent of the olive and nut selections near the cash register. The feel of dried chilies in your hand is reminiscent of sun soaked raisins and the leathery feel of old skin.  You can nearly taste every variety of peppercorn as the smell lingers around the store. Every nook and cranny is used to display Greek coffee, New York honey, or the ever-elusive Szechuan peppers.

Any recipe that poses a challenge with ingredients from afar can be tackled with help from Kalustyan's. The store proves to be a treasure trove for any chef, foodie, or adventurous home cook. Replicating street food could not be easier with a selection including berbere and bird's eye chilies. Kalustyan's even offers online access to their inventory, making it a go-to for those who are outside of Manhattan or don't have access to a comparable store in their hometowns. There are a hundred different kinds of herbs, 30 kinds of chilies, 50 different kinds of beans and over 4,000 spices to choose from. The selection is sure to keep customers busy.

Living in Manhattan's melting pot is already a remarkable thing, as you see so much of not only what America has to offer, but also cultures that have the hardiest roots. Kalustyan's shares them all through one of the world's oldest commodities; spice.

Photo: flickr4jazz

To read Ashley's original post, click here.

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