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by Marni Fogelson

Traveling exposes us to new sights, smells, sounds and of course, tastes. One of the most delicious parts of experiencing different cultures is foods you never even new existed! One ingredient or dish can provide a key into the history and memory of a place. Since the availability of international travel can make the world feel smaller these days, we’re always surprised and pleased when we discover ingredients that can spice up our kitchen cabinets and take everyday foods to the next level. 


Where we found it: Morocco

Where you can buy it: Alassala  

Or make your own

It’s practically criminal that amlou is so difficult to find stateside. This delicious, almond-based dip makes an excellent topping on toast and a decadent, traditional filling for breakfast crepes. Amlou’s not-so-secret ingredient is argan oil, which has bloomed in popularity in a variety of hair and beauty products. Argan oil can be pricey, so if you’re making your own amlou, feel free to swap in hazelnut, walnut, or even olive oil for a sweet spread you’ll want to eat by the spoonful.

blueberry salt

Where we found it: Iceland

Where you can buy it: Shop Icelandic

Flaky Icelandic sea salt is marinated in wild blueberries and then dried at a low temperature to make this gorgeous-looking and flavorful condiment.  Recommended as a finishing salt for meats, blueberry salt’s saturated color also makes it a beautiful addition to veggies, a visual contrast to piece of fish, or even a little depth of flavor to some chopped chocolate or ice cream.

matcha green tea powder

Where we found it: Japan

Where you can find it: many Japanese and Asian groceries or variety of tea sites, like Rishi Tea .

Matcha is the finely ground powder of green tea leaves. Savored in Japan for thousands of years, matcha has made waves for its cancer-fighting and energy-boosting properties. You can drink it in teas or lattes, but don’t let your imagination stop with beverages.  Matcha flavored ice cream is cool and calming, matcha shortbread makes an elegant and beautiful take on a buttery classic, and matcha meets its match with virtually any type of chocolate (bars, ganache, or truffles, to name a few!).

berbere spice

Where we found it: Ethiopia
Where you can buy it: A variety of online vendors or make your own .

Berbere means “hot” in Amharic, and this delicious spice blend gets its heat from dried chilis. Toasted and ground spices make berbere a ubiquitous ingredient in Ethiopian food and can be used in stews, soups, or as a dry rub for meats. Give regular or sweet potatoes a smoky kick by adding berbere before roasting with olive oil.

sesame halvah (or halva)

Where we found it: all over the world. It’s especially popular in a number of Middle Eastern countries.
Where you can find it: A Middle Eastern market or, for an artisanal take from the US: Halvah Heaven .

Sesame halvah is a tahini-based sweet treat found and beloved in numerous countries. If eating it straight up is too intense for you, try crumbling it over ice cream or into yogurt, or stuffing it into dates. Traditional flavors can include chocolate or pistachio, but some versions incorporate nuts, dried fruits, a variety of spices or even Earl Grey.


Where we found it: India

Where you can buy it: Indian grocery stores or Pure Indian Foods .

Jaggery is an unrefined sugar that has a rich, molasses-like taste and is made by boiling down raw sugarcane juice. Jaggery contains more trace vitamins and minerals (including iron) than refined sugar as well as a more complex flavor. You can use jaggery when trying your hand at some traditional Indian dishes (both sweet and savory) or add jaggery to drinks including teas, lemonades, or lassis.

lobster oil

Where we found it: Canada and France

Where you can buy it: Olive & Ciboulette or Groix & Nature .

One taste of lobster oil, and you will wonder how you lived without it. This aromatic oil offers a fantastic finish to grilled or seared seafood or as a dipping sauce for bread. It will take your go-to vinaigrette recipe from the mundane to inspired; you can also add a fragrant and elegant drizzle on pasta or risotto.


Where we found it: Northern Africa, Spain, and Greece

Where you can buy it: Spicely  or at Trader Joe’s.

Saffron can be found working its culinary magic in dishes varying from Spanish paellas to Moroccan tagines to Iranian rice pudding. Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world, but most recipes only call for a few precious threads: you’ll be amazed at how a small amount of saffron can transform a dish with its heady smell and gorgeous color. Saffron makes an impression wherever you use it, even when used in a classic brunch sauce.