In October I had the pleasure of visiting Chicago. I spent much of my time walking around and taking in the amazing sites. This wasn’t my first time in Chi-town and certainly won’t be my last. I think that October is a perfect time of year to go. It’s not too hot, the fall foliage is breathtaking and most attractions and activities are still open. While there, I went on two food tours which, in my opinion, is the best way to see a city.
One of the fun things about a food tour is that not only does one get to taste the cuisine that makes that city special, but one also learns about the history, architecture and culture of that city. It’s a win-win in my book. I took a tour that highlighted the Old Town and Gold Coast areas of Chicago. This was very fun as it started with deep dish pizza and ended with some delicious ice cream. Mighty tasty. In between we saw beautiful architecture, learned about the haves and have-nots of a bygone era and took a gander at the original Playboy mansion. This was a particular favorite of our group. I do want to say that I also had an Official Chicago Dog and I’m madly working on finding the exact ingredients to make a similar dish at home.
A stop that I truly enjoyed was Spice it Up, a spice shop that encouraged smelling and tasting of the most aromatic and decadent spices I had ever seen. The Vietnamese cinnamon was very impressive, as it had a peppery, almost hot aftertaste. This would be perfect in a mole or chili. I was also given a spice guide, which I am finding to be very helpful and fun to read. The fact that it smells like that delicious cinnamon is an added bonus.
After I returned back to Juneau and my everyday life, my mind kept wandering to that spice store and I it dawned on me that Juneau has a spice store. It was what the kids call a “face-palm” moment. Red Onion Spice & Tea has been in Juneau for several years. It started as an online store in 2009 and owner Kathy Jones has done a marvelous job with her store front on Dunn Street in the Mendenhall Valley. I stopped in there last weekend and had myself a field day smelling the different spices and getting educated on her products.
Like most enthusiastic students, I feel compelled to share what I learned. More than 97% of the spices and teas sold in the store are organic. They roast and grind their own spices as well. The really nice thing is that you can buy as little as one ounce of a spice and use it fresh, rather than have a bottle of something you need once a year or for a specific recipe. The other lovely benefit of Red Onion Spice & Tea is that customers have the opportunity to try something new and to experiment with new flavors. Their online store, www.redonionspice.com has specialty items including a My First Spice Kit, which is perfect for new cooks, such as oh let’s say a daughter who never cooked a single thing when she lived at home, but is now a new wife and is learning all her cooking tips from Pinterest. I’m not bitter or anything.
When I asked Kathy what spice was her best selling, she quickly stated Sri Lanka Curry. I was surprised. I imagined it would be a sea salt, pepper or a chili powder, but not a curry. Kathy graciously provided me a sample to use in a new recipe. I also purchased some mulling spices because the aroma wafting from the warming pot of cider with the mulling spices was like a soothing drug and I knew I couldn’t live without it. Is it possible to have an aroma addiction?
After I got home with my Sri Lanka Curry powder I started experimenting in the kitchen. I am new at making curries at home, preferring to go to restaurants where the chefs are experts. But, I am also great at experimenting and enjoy these food challenges.
A few things I learned: 1) Sri Lanka Curry is hot. By hot I mean your eyes bug out and perspiration rolls off your brow if you put too much. In the south we call this “sit up and smack your mama hot”. This in no way means one should abuse their parent. It means “Dang! That’s HOT!” 2) Too much is more than a teaspoon for me, but just right for someone else. Start with a little and add more to get the right amount of heat that works for you. 3) Get an extra lime. It adds a level of flavor that brings the dish together.
Having a specialty spice store like Red Onion Spice & Tea is yet another reason why Juneau is such a great place to live. This week it was curry, who knows what I will discover next week. I look forward to the adventure. I am thrilled to present a dish using a new ingredient from my new favorite store: Halibut Curry.
Until next time…
Eat and enjoy,
A spicy, exotic, easy to make recipe for any white fish, or chicken.
- 4 - 5 ounces halibut, cut into large chunks -
- 1 can coconut milk -
- 1/2 cup chicken broth -
- 1 teaspoon Sri Lanka curry powder -
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin -
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger -
- 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce -
- 1/4 cup heavy cream -
- 2 tablespoons olive oil -
- 1/2 yellow onion, sliced -
- 3 cloves garlic, minced -
- 1/2, red yellow or orange bell pepper -
- 2 limes, one cut into wedges -
- Salt and pepper -
- 3 cups cooked brown rice -
Combine coconut milk and chicken broth in medium stock pot. Bring to low simmer. Add Sri Lanka curry powder, cumin, ginger and fish sauce. Stir well and cook about 10 minutes. Add heavy cream and juice of one lime, stir well and set burner to low.
In medium skillet, preheat olive oil to medium high heat. Season fish well with salt and pepper. Sear fish on both sides then gently place into sauce. Add onions, garlic and peppers to skillet and cook until softened. Pour contents of skillet into broth and taste for seasoning. This is where you’ll want to add more salt, pepper or curry powder. Simmer additional 10 minutes until fish is cooked through. Do not boil.
To serve, place brown rice in bottom of bowl and top with curry. Squeeze fresh lime juice and add additional basil or fresh cilantro for garnish.