If yesterday we only talked about salt to supposedly give intensity to our dishes, spices have taken over when it comes to refining a recipe and securing a moment of escape. A taste for ginger, paprika and other peppers or cinnamon which has caused imports to explode in Europe over the last ten years.
For a long time, salt has been presented and recommended as the essential ingredient in our dishes, for the simple reason that it would be a “flavor enhancer”, if we use the expression used by a multitude of chefs. …. If it has since been dismantled from its super-status by chemists, like Raphaël Haumont, the scientist who accompanies the starred chef Thierry Marx in his exploration of flavor associations – for the latter, salt is a modifier of flavors and can amplify the sweet flavor, reduce the bitter but not intensify the tastes, other ingredients become essential: spices. What would couscous be without its ras el-hanout, tandoori chicken without its array of paprika-fennel-cinnamon-ginger-curry-fenugreek-chili pepper or even a steak with pepper sauce without… pepper? Tasteless!
Europe and the United States are enthusiastic about spices
In the space of ten years, Europe has increased its imports of spices from non-EU countries by 57%. According to figures from Eurostat, between 2012 and 2022, the statistics office of the European Union, imports of ginger even exploded by 149% while those of turmeric increased by 142%. In total, the EU imported 397,000 tonnes of spices from countries outside the Union. Ginger is the spice that Europeans love the most (122,900 tonnes), ahead of paprika (109,800 tonnes) and pepper (62,900 tonnes). Mainly, Europeans obtain their supplies from the Chinese, who mainly import ginger and paprika while their Vietnamese neighbors take care of pepper production. But that’s not all: there is also cinnamon, particularly from Indonesia, turmeric, from India, while Egypt mainly supplies anise.
But the trend is not only European, it is American too. In its annual report analyzing the most ordered dishes in 2023 in Uncle Sam’s country, the Grubhub platform noticed a rise in demand for the personalization of delivery meals, in particular by adding spice. The Americans have thus realized a particular demand for sriracha, the famous Thai sauce which gives it a bite. More than 53 million dishes were ordered with a request for added spice, with chipotle sauce too, or jalapeno cream sauce.
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However, spices cover a variety of sensations that can also heat the tip of the tongue and titillate the back of the palate. They offer a host of taste experiences, and therefore table pleasures that prevent boredom. In recent years, numerous works have attempted to uncover the secrets of the correct ways to use cinnamon, ginger and paprika, such as the latest published by Editions de la Martinière “Mes spices en cuisine”, signed by Gérard Vives. “The Spice Atlas: a world tour of flavors in 50 recipes and encounters” by entrepreneur Beena Paradin Migotto has also become a must-have. Maintaining her passion for powders and small seeds in the Food Karma podcast, the culinary author had obtained an essential signature for the preface of her work, that of the great chef Olivier Roellinger, who has become a sourcer of spices and the ultimate reference in terms of peppers. , vanilla, saffron from all over the world and benefiting from dedicated shops in Europe.
It is also no coincidence that many chefs compose their own spice blends to make them available in their grocery store, such as Anne-Sophie Pic in Valence or Gérald Passédat in Marseille. These reveal the signature of the greatest toques, and we can imagine trying to import a hint of stars into our own cuisine thanks to these ingredients. At a time when gastronomic travel remains more trendy than ever, according to the latest Booking report which indicated in mid-November that travelers want to discover new dishes while traveling, spices are an accessible way to escape.
Finally, while giving an immersive dimension, spices constitute that little extra soul that feels good, at a time when consumers are sensitive to healthy eating. In its latest report, the reservation platform TheFork indicated “well-being gastronomy” as one of the key trends for this year 2024. High blood pressure, stress, skin regeneration… The benefits of many spices have been presented many times times. Their presence on our plates is therefore widely praised.