From Sumac to Black Lime: Interesting Spices Available in Victoria

Writing an article on where to find the different spices needed for Middle-Eastern dishes,  I thought I would broaden the topic by talking generally about where to buy spices and the experience of buying spices in general.  If you are looking to make a particular dish that involves more than the salt and pepper required for a good beef wellington, the supermarket will not do.  Rather, you are going to need to run all over town and visit different places.  Lateral thinking helps in this regard.  For example, if you are making an Indian curry, you will find many of the spices you need at the Mexican House of Spice.  This said, I decided to pick out a few obscure (and, in some cases, unknown to me) items for conversation.  Adding these to dishes will gain you the admiration of guests, who find themselves delighted by a flavour they have never had before on their tongue.

spice fig

Black Limes, a.k.a, Black Lemons, or Loomi.

Located at Fig.  Limes are boiled in salt water and then sun dried until they turn black.  They can be crushed up or powdered and then added to meat, fish, or rice dishes.  The flavour is quite strong and tastes like fermented citrus.  This is an extremely popular addition to many Persian and Middle-Eastern dishes.  If you are making a pot of rice for example, try dropping a crushed black lime in and see how it affects the flavour.  Put some Loomi into a stew and taste the transformation.

spice seven valleys

Sumac.  Located at Seven Valleys.

In Ontario where I grew up, sumac was regarded as a pest plant.  The First Nations people knew better and used sumac to brew a kind of lemonade, among other things.  In Turkey, Persia, and across Arabic speaking countries, sumac is dried and grated, and used as both a spice and a condiment.  It has a slightly sour, lemony flavour that is quite distinctive.  I’ve tried to harvest it myself, and it is a pain.  You can buy it cheaply at a few places around town.  Start by sprinkling some straight onto meat, as one would with salt or pepper, and discover the unique flavour.


Corn Meal.

Located at The Mexican House of Spice.  Corn meal is the staple of so much cooking from the southern US on down to the Cape of Good Hope.  Not all corn meals are created equal, though.  Maseca is the most famous brand name of the fine ground variety popular in Mexico and Central America for making tortillas, pupusas and other delights of that kind.  Further South, Harina Pan is the rough ground type that Colombians and Venezuelans use to make arepas.  The yellow ground stuff shown in the picture here is the most common for making cornbread, that essential mop to the scrumptious gravies of Southern cooking.

spice hodori

Acorn Powder.

Located at Korean Food Market Hodori.  I admit that I bought this one on a whim.  Acorn powder is used as a gelatin mix to make a dish called Dotorimuk.  I believe this might be what Giga Puddi is made from.  We do know that acorns are a high protein food source that is renewable and could probably save humanity, if only we could find an efficient way to get all the toxins out.  I will get back to you, dear reader, on my successes or failures with acorn powder.



Located at Blair Mart.  I already reported on Blair Mart, of course, but I want to revisit the site to talk a little about paprika.  It is an undervalued spice around here.  Paprika has a great history.  We think of it now as a staple in Hungarian and other European cuisines, but in the beginning it was an American thing, ground from dried peppers.  It is only in the last few hundred years that dishes like chicken paprikash came into being.  What did Hungarians put on their chicken before that?  Nobody is saying.  When I was living in India as a young dumb kid, we often used to cut cucumber and sprinkle the slices with a bit of salt and paprika.  It is a good snack for a hot day.  I still eat this at least once a week.  Paprika is also fantastic when dashed onto the top of a frying egg.  Invite it back into your kitchen and enjoy.

Fig Mediterranean Deli, Market and Kitchen

1551 Cedar Hill Cross Road

Victoria, BC V8P 2P3




Seven Valleys

2506 Douglas St, Victoria, BC, V8T4M1

Phone: 250-382-9998

Fax: 250-385-9911


Korean Food Market Hodori

1551 Cedar Hill Cross Road

(250) 381-4147


Mexican House of Spices

2022 Douglas St

(250) 388-6602


Blair Mart

924 Pandora Avenue

(250) 721-1626

Written By:

Born and raised in the mysterious East (by which I mean Ontario and Quebec, not Asia), Adam migrated out to British Columbia in search of adventure and fortune. He had been at different times a scholar, a musician, a poet and a ...

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  • […] raspberry, apple, loomi, and ginger jam.  The loomi, as you will recall from my article on spices (here) is a sundried black lime.  It gives this jam a slight hint in the aftertaste of Mediterranean […]