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King of Spice and Everything Nice

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What is King of Spice? It was once believed to have originated from Kerala in Southern India – the erstwhile state of Maharaja Jai Singh (who is the same King of the spice who supposedly started the first spice trade). But this theory is now a thing of the past. Today, King of Spice is made from a variety of South Indian spices and is considered to be one of the most versatile spices in the world.

Pepper, the hot black stone black pepper, or kerna as it was known then, kick-started the new spice routes in Southern India and across the Malabar Coast to the ports of Brazil and other South American coastal areas. King of Spice was highly valued back then as it was used to pay for livestock, protection and ransoms, and even as currency. But its true value was in the aromatic oils that oozed out of the stone like a thick, dark oil from a dying cactus. The more the King of Spice was rubbed the more pungent and aromatic the smell became.

Pepper being one of the more flavorful tropical fruits has a wide array of uses in South America and, of course, in India and Malaysia. But what makes a pepper truly distinctive is the aroma, of the various spices and their oils that combine together to create a distinctive flavor. And for that reason, every pepper has its own special place in a spice rack or pantry.

For instance, the King of Spices, or karkady, is known to the locals as the black peppercorn. It is so popular in India that whole peppercorns are dried and sold as a spice. The fruit is black and sour and is used to season many dishes; its taste can be quite strong at times and so a little goes a long way. An entire skewer of karkady would make quite an impressive snack and it pairs well with many mangoes and apples.

The King of Spice or paprika comes from the red hot Cayenne pepper of Southern America. It is considered a robust spice and goes best with strong peppers, such as habanera pepper or jalapeno pepper. Although not a very common spice, the King of Spice also goes by names like red hot, sweat, rock salt, scorching, and powdered rock salt among others.

Turmeric is a yellow spice found in south Asian countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and is one of the most popular spices. Its medicinal properties have been known since ancient times and have been used to treat skin problems, promote healing in cold and cough and to limit inflammation. Although the pungent and yellow color of turmeric attests to its pungency, its antibacterial and antioxidant properties make it a worthy competitor with mustard seeds and red pepper flakes which are often thought of as more pungent and hot than turmeric. Turmeric has a tangy aftertaste that some people find unpleasant but its benefits can be enjoyed by anyone.