One of the best parts of meal and meal kit delivery is the ability to experiment with new-to-you sauces and seasonings without totally restocking (or stocking!) your spice drawer. This list will help you know what your new favorite flavors are, as well as where they come from.
1. Garam Masala
Typically found in dishes like tikka masala, Garam Masala, which translates to “warm spice,” lives up to its name. It’s not just the flavor that’s warming, but the result — garam is a term that refers to the heating of the body, believed to elevate temperature in Ayurvedic medicinal practice. This trademark of Indian and Pakistani cuisine is a spice blend, with every region and family protecting their own exact recipes. It’s generally made up of cinnamon, cloves, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, and peppercorn.
2. Aleppo Chili
Jalapeño peppers are so passé. If you’re sick of biting into the same old level of spice, it’s time to venture further east. The aleppo chili comes from Turkey and Syria, where it’s worked into almost every delicious recipe. Dried in the sun and de-seeded, this chili isn’t aggressively hot. Its heat builds as you keep eating, which makes it perfect for adding to everything from pizza to this perfectly-seasoned take on the banh mi sandwich. Yes, you’re right, bahn mi doesn’t typically come with meatballs. It’s also Vietnamese with French influence, so it doesn’t usually come with a Syrian chili pepper. Have faith — it will all make sense when you taste how this global combination of flavors comes together.
3. Kaffir Lime Leaves
If you ever see a kaffir lime, you might think it’s a regular lime with the mumps. The lumpy looks of a kaffir lime mark its distinct flavor, and while it’s just as delicious as its citric cousins, the look is a little off-putting. Luckily, only the leaves of a kaffir lime are most commonly used, and they can be found in just about all Thai cuisine. It’s aromatic and flexible to use, flavoring everything from rice to curries like Panang Curry Chicken, where the kaffir lime leaves provide the perfect complement to coconut milk, fresh ginger, and other Thai tastes.
4. Sambal Sauce
First there was Sriracha. Now there’s sambal sauce. Indonesia, Malaysia, and other Southeast Asian countries have all perfected their own take on the blended final flavor, which can appear in either a smooth sauce or a chili relish. It combines everything from sugar and spice to citrus juices, but the one ingredient that remains central are the chilies, although those can vary too! The typical sambal sauce blends chilies that run the gamut from habanero to lombok. Once you take a taste you’ll know why people are starting to incorporate sambal sauce in everything — like these Hawaiian Pork Tacos.
Harissa is another chili pepper-based flavor punch. It’s less of a pourable sauce and more of a paste, with flavors linked to Tunisia, where it’s practically the national condiment. The exact chili and seasoning makeup of harissa is once again dependent on where it comes from and even who made the batch. It usually is comprised of chili peppers, garlic, and spices like cumin and coriander. When done correctly, it provides a well-rounded kick of heat that will have you searching for flights to North Africa. Munchery’s take on harissa adds the perfect complementary punch of flavor, especially when paired with a cooled-down yogurt sauce.
Sometimes mistaken for soy sauce, tamari is a different spin on the fermented soybean. Instead of being made with cooked soybeans and roasted grains like soy sauce is, tamari is a byproduct of miso paste and is naturally gluten-free. Both sauces do look similar, but tamari is darker and richer, with less salt in its flavor profile. It’s much more balanced, giving umami deliciousness without that overwhelming hit of salt. Dishes like this Grilled Ahi Tuna Salad utilize it perfectly, stepping up the flavor without overwhelming a beautiful piece of fish.
7. Thai Chili Pepper
You may have heard of Thai chili pepper before as bird’s eye pepper — or maybe you haven’t. After all, this pepper is still only widely used in Thai cuisine. It’s one of those secret weapons that make your takeout taste so amazing. This spicy little pepper is twenty times hotter than a jalapeño, and this extra bite helps it pair with complex dishes, lending its heat to a perfect balance with sweeter and milder flavors like coconut. The Thai-Style Spicy Mint Cauliflower is a perfect example of how it can add a lot with just a little.
It’s more than just for gum! Spearmint is a surprising ingredient that adds an incredibly fresh flavor. If you haven’t tried mint in your salad, you’ve truly never experienced the herbaceous high note that it can bring. Only the leaf is used, and it’s best served without any additional meddling. When paired with the right greens, you won’t even notice it until it’s lighting up your palate. It even has some cleansing properties, helping your body fight everything from headaches to stomach aches and sore throats.
9. Fish Sauce
Fish sauce is usually made with anchovies, but flavored with salt and sugar, these anchovies are tastier than their canned counterparts. Fish sauce uses fermented anchovy to take this underrated fish’s flavor to the next level. Sure, they may be pungent, but when mixed with a full cast of co-ingredients, nothing can compare to the unique umami of a fine-tuned fish sauce. So let go of your past anchovy experiences and try this sauce in everything from Asian-inspired dishes to salad dressings.
Nuts. Seeds. Spices. Dukkah has it all. Its name means “to crush” in Egyptian Arabic, and sums up the way it’s made. It’s a simple yet complexly combined mixture of hazelnuts, sesame seeds, cumin… and just about anything else that’s native to the place it was prepared. In this way, it’s a naturally reflective of local ingredients, celebrating them all at once in finger-licking unity. Choosing the right spices and textures to top a meal is often the hardest part of finishing a dish with perfection. That’s why dukkah is the perfect final touch — it does the mixing and matching for you, offering the ideal taste every time.