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Only 2 spices for 7 weeks

I am about to embark on a 7 week stay in rural Uganda. I'll be cooking the majority of my meals (table top gas stove, no oven). I have been advised to bring a couple of spices with me since they aren't readily available there (but there will be salt). What should I choose??

asked by Sarah Marx over 1 year ago
16 answers 751 views
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Sarah Jampel

Sarah is Food52's senior staff writer & stylist.

added over 1 year ago

Do you have any idea of what spices are most prevalent there? I'd probably choose a couple of spices to remind me of home (or of foods that might not be readily available in Uganda). If the food there is generally spicy, for example, I might not choose curry or cayenne, but opt for something more herbal.

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added over 1 year ago

Good question! I know they have spicy fresh peppers there so I don't think I'll need to bring anything with heat. Other than that I have heard cooking with dried spices is not very common in the area where I will be. I do love cumin but not sure that it can stand on its own. I also love cinnamon, but more for oatmeal, apples, yogurt, etc., which will be hard to find there.

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Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added over 1 year ago

It would be handy to know what the staple dishes are - beans? chicken? veggie? And then choose the spices that best complement those mains.

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aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 1 year ago

I just read a bit about Ugandan food and spices - is sounds like cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, lemongrass, turmeric, pepper will all be available. I don't see mention of cumin- which along with paprika and white peppercorn are things I reach for again and again. Think about what you go for at home and go from there. I use a TON of fresh rosemary, so I would likely bring dried with me. Also when I travel I often but the little baggies of bulk spices then put them all in a vacuum sealed pack for the trip - it lays flat in your suitcase and you could bring quite a few that way.

What an adventure! Are you going just for fun or work or ... other???

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aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 1 year ago

Ha - not sure why this posted twice

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added over 1 year ago

I am a first year medical student and I will be working in conjunction with the local government-run hospital, along with some physicians and students from my medical school, to do community outreach and education in the villages surrounding the hospital!

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Trena Heinrich

Trena is a trusted source on general cooking.

added over 1 year ago

I would bring garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, dried thyme, oregano, and rosemary. I'd try and plan for the types of foods available and work backward re: the best recipes. What type of meat will be available? Vegetables? You will get hungry and miss comfort foods from home. I've been travelling in Southeast Asia for the past seven months and I'm really missing some of my favorite foods. Have a great trip!

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Nancy

Nancy is a trusted home cook.

added over 1 year ago

not what you asked, but two reflective answers. If you have to ask us, you're not sure. so put the names of your favorite spices in a hat, pick two and that's it. Or. take none, and live fully in the food culture where you're going to be. Yes, you'll feel some (not much, knowing you're out in 7 weeks) deprivation. But/and you'll also discover the rhythm of their days, expressed in their food.

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added over 1 year ago

I really like Nancy's idea about not bringing any, and cooking only with what you can find there. That said, it's certainly your choice!! If I had to bring two, I'd bring dehydrated lemon peel (not at all hard to find - McCormick makes it) and an all-purpose blend of different green herbs, like "Italian seasoning" or herbs de Provence.

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added over 1 year ago

Thank you all for the suggestions; these are great ideas! I am a vegetarian so there will be no meat or fish involved. I think rice and beans are the staple, and I know there is a fresh fruit and vegetable market across the street from where I'm staying (although to avoid food borne illnesses, everything will need to be peeled and/or cooked.)

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added over 1 year ago

I'd probably bring garlic powder (not technically a spice, I realize) and oregano if I were limited to two.

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added over 1 year ago

I would suggest opting for spice blends that can serve multiple purposes, rather than single straight spices. Maybe one that is sweeter and one that is more savory. I do agree with others that suggest you should consider your preferences.

Seeing that you mentioned cinnamon, what about a baking spice. Certainly for breakfast and/or dessert type dishes (sprinkled on fresh fruit or to make a sweet rice--reminiscent of oatmeal, perhaps); but also in small doses with chiles added for use in a main dish - vegetables (maybe roasted yams?) or beans, perhaps.

For savory, maybe a chili powder - with onion, garlic, cumin...it is more versatile that you may think. You can use it as a rub or in a sauce but also as a seasoning. If you like curry, that might be another good option. I know you mention being a vegetarian but a bbq rub might be a good taste of America. Great for beans and, as above, for sauces too.

What a wonderful adventure for you. And what a wonderful service to their community. Best of luck.

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added over 1 year ago

I hate to ruin the thought experiment, but aren't spices pretty light and travel-friendly? I would be thinking more about ways to bring as many spices as humanly possible. Make a cool tic-tac box spice kit. See how many different usable amounts you can baggy up and put in a tea tin. Make some spice mixes specifically for one pot recipes you know.

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Susan W

Susan W is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 1 year ago

I'm confused about why you are only taking two spices. I would either take nothing and immerse myself into the local food, or I would take any and all spices that I like because they are about the easiest item to travel with.

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added over 1 year ago

Great suggestions from the Food52 community here and I support the previous recommendations re: spice blends and being adventurous with what's locally available (after all, what better way to learn a country than through their food?). My go-to herb blend is MOTTS Marjoram-Oregano-Twice Thyme-Savory (proportions are: 1-1-2-1). I use it on flatbreads, vegetables, roasted meats and in soft cheese spreads, soups and sauces. Have fun and enjoy your travels!