Heaven. Seriously, if you like fragrant, flavorful food, this place is heaven. The smells of a thousand aromatic spices swirl around you when you open the door, and beckon you from each corner. Walking into the Savory Spice Shop on West 6th Street is like having a your consciousness raised through your nose.
It’s a simple concept, really: Herbs and spices, ground fresh weekly, with attention to quality and variety. Started in Denver, Colorado, in 2004 by Mike and Janet Johnston, Savory Spice Shop is going strong with a website for ordering online, four locations in the Denver area and seven franchise locations around the U.S., including the Austin store.
Karen Aboussie is the owner/operator of the Austin location. She’s as friendly as she is knowledgeable, and is more than happy to show customers around, make recommendations and give expert advice. You’re encouraged to smell and taste everything. It’s a little overwhelming, but in a good way. I came into the store blind, not knowing what I wanted, just wanting to explore. Next time, I’ll have a plan for what I’m looking for so I can focus rather than following my nose, literally.
With Karen’s help, I ended up with three spice mixes and the recipes to go with them. She set me up with a 1-ounce bag of each, which is an incredibly easy and inexpensive way to try out the products there. I was also able to buy the preserved lemons that two of the recipes I chose call for — how’s that for convenience shopping! I also left with a lovely gift set for a friend. The presentation of their gift sets is genius. The bottles are layed in with whole spices around them as packing material — bay leaves, star anise, cinnamon stick and a whole red chile. So lovely (the one you see below is their Bloody Mary gift set).
Last night, I made the Cambodian Lemongrass Chicken Curry. With all the spices pre-ground and mixed, it was a snap, which is not the usual case with curries! The house smelled great and all the tasters liked the dish. The recipe suggests using a frozen package of Asian vegetables, which I did, but next time I’ll try fresh because the frozen seemed to water down the sauce a little. But, the flavors of lemongrass and chilies still came through nicely, and for convenience and time-savings, frozen works just fine.
Next time you’re downtown, make a point to stop at the Savory Spice Shop to give your nose (and tastebuds!) a treat. Through March 13th, they have a promotion going on where for every “tired, old competitor’s bottle of spice you bring in” you get $1 off any new Savory Spice Shop bottle. You know you’ve got some funky grocery-store bottle of oregano hiding in your pantry. Tuck it in your bag and head on down to visit Karen. I’ll be going back soon, myself.
* Editor’s note: Unfortunately, the Savory Spice Shop on 6th Street is no more, but as of February 2015, there is a location in the Arboretum.
Cambodian Lemongrass Chicken Curry
2 Tablespoons water3 1/2 Tablespoons (1 ounce) Cambodian Lemongrass Curry Powder
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons soy or fish sauce
1 cup coconut milk
1 pound boneless chicken, cut into cubes
1 bag (12 ounces) frozen vegetables*
1 Tablespoon lime juice
In small bowl, combine water, Cambodian Lemongrass Curry Powder, olive oil and soy or fish sauce. Stir until it forms a paste. Set aside.
In large skillet, heat coconut milk over low heat 5-6 minutes. Thoroughly mix in curry paste. Add chicken and cook, covered, over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetables and lime juice, stir thoroughly, cover and simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes, making sure the chicken is cooked through. For a slightly thicker sauce, remove cover and simmer 5-10 minutes more, depending on desired consistency. Serve over steamed rice. Yields: 4 servings.
*Notes: Following an Alton Brown tip, we used a frozen Asian vegetable medley product that can be microwaved in the unopened bag.
Written by: Shannon Oelrich