Lior Lev Sercarz runs the La Boîte spice company in New York. He’s a master spice blender who has worked for some of the world’s best chefs and he’s someone who has taken the historical tradition of spice blending into the 21st century.
We caught up with Sercarz at his store in New York to discuss his unique story and ask him for some tips and advice surrounding spice.
Below the spice master shared with us five things people should consider when buying spices.
You should look at the package and the colour of your spices. For peppercorns for example, if they’re not bright and black, if they’re going grey and looking broken, avoid them.
I prefer things that are packed in containers vs bags. It just extends their shelf life, bags, even if they’re the best bags on the earth, they’re not 100 percent sealed to air and air is the enemy of spices.
This is also a factor, as much as I like bargains and deals, I stay away from cheap spices. You’re paying more because they’ve been sourced better and packaged better – with a better quality product you should be able to use less so it all balances out.
If you can smell the spices, you want to make sure you can actually smell something when you put it near your nose. If there is no smell at all, this is a sign it’s too old.
I would always stay away from the places where you can scoop up your own spices - there are only a few places in the world where I would do it. The challenge with these bulk places is that the spices are exposed to the air and the scoops are being mixed.
As long as it’s in a container that has a lid, it’s not exposed to humidity, no extreme heat, no extreme cold, you will be fine.
If you’re lazy and you don't have the time, buy ground spices, just make sure you get good quality and keep them rotated in the cupboard.
Dal is one of those recipes that goes all the way back to the Indus Valley Civilisation. Unlike dishes such as biryani, brought to India by the Moghuls, it is one of those foods that has always been there. It is therefore a building block of Indian culture.