Seeking out spices in Paris.

Using spices in cooking can evoke travel, soothe stress and bring back memories. Spices have a long and intricate history so whether you’re grinding fresh nutmeg or measuring a hot curry powder, pause and consider how you’re dealing with a small piece of cultural, economic and culinary history packed tightly into a small jar or a paper bag.

They have been an integral part of cooking for centuries.  Outside of the kitchen, we have been perfuming ourselves for centuries and various plants, seeds and spice extracts find their way into exotic blends assumed to make us more attractive to the opposite sex, more palatable to the general public and more tolerable on public transport.  Smell can make or break a relationship and these days  fruit, flower and vegetable combine with ancient spice blends  to make scents that sound more like a good meal or marinade then a cosmetic aid.

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Unfortunately a good hot curry is still difficult to come by. Although if you head to a small primarily Sri Lankan enclave near Stalingrad in the tenth arrondissement you can find some good cheap meals that while not bringing quite a tear to your eye, will sate the average anglophone curry craving.
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Spice merchandising has been an important part of international commerce since Greco-Roman times via the Silk Road, the incense routes of Asia and China, through Venice from the east not to mention North African and Moorish influence finding their way up into Spain and the rest of Europe.  Some curious culinary legacies have found their way into some of the most traditional Spanish and Italian dishes.  From the Greeks (who probably introduced saffron) to the Omayyad Arabs in the 8th century to the Turkish Ottomans in the twelfth, outside influence in culture and cooking is still apparent  in Spanish and particularly Sicilian and Venetian cuisine today.  However, many crops and foodstuffs are thought to have come from the New World and so the extent to which the Arabs influenced Sicilian cuisine is often under dispute.

Catching the back of your throat, your nose, escaping from your skin the next day, a good spice blend can change everything and often has a role to play in cultural traditions, celebrations or simply from a health point of view.

While the French are generally wary of anything trop épicé, and are not the world’s greatest fans of hot food, you can still find an abundance of blends of herbs and spices from all over the world in several Parisian neighborhoods.

Useful addresses should you find yourself spice shopping in Paris:

  • Izrael - l’épicerie du monde, 30, rue François-Miron in the Marais (good supplies of smokey paprika)
  • L’épicierie de Bruno, 30 Rue Tiquetonne, 75002 Paris
  • G. Detou, 58 rue Tiquetonne, 75002
  • L’épicerie Hératchian Frères on Rue Lamartine, 75009
  • Goumanyat on Rue 3 rue Charles-Francois Dupuis, 75003 (particularly for salt and saffron)
  • Ahga M’ Bark, 21 rue Montorgueil,75001
  • Passage Brady, Rue Faubourg Saint Denis, 75010 – Indian grocery store carrying well-priced general curry spices, grains, rices, teas and other Asian ingredients
  • To sample a contemporary luxury apothecary of constantly surprising blends of all kinds of delicious elements head to Jo Malone.