If you actually need an excuse for a good curry then rest easy, because international hot and spicy food day falls on January 16th.

If you prefer a fiery chili or if Chinese food gets your juices flowing then that’s equally acceptable and a great way to blast out those winter chills.

Pepper, chili, turmeric, cinnamon and all those other magical herbs and spices that transform bland dishes into the tasty and exotic can be bought cheaply and found in most kitchens.

Or better still, save time and ensure the taste is always perfect by tucking into the SK Indian, Oriental or Tex-Mex range.

Spicy foods can now be bought cheaply all over the world but there was a time when their rarity made spices more valuable than gold and the desire for these mystical goods that could be used not only in food, but also as medicine and as incense transformed the world.

Known as the Spice Islands, the Maluku islands, just North of Australia, became the start of the international spice route when traders brought the mace, nutmeg and cloves that could be found there to mainland Asia. Soon the spicy secrets of Indonesia, Malaysia, China and especially the black pepper of India were added to the mix as Arabic merchants established the overland trade route to Europe.

To deter any competitors they invented fantastic stories of giant winged creatures that protected the spices, and for 3,000 years this overland route brought the mysteries of the east with Europe. So lucrative did it become,  that a kilo of pepper costing a gramme of silver in India cost 15 times that amount when sold at the European gateway of Venice and up to 30 times in other parts of Europe.

Little wonder that the major European seapowers decided the time had come to bypass the middleman and find a maritime route direct to the spice producers.

The Portugese explorer Vasco de Gama found the Eastern route to India after navigating Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Meanwhile, Columbus set off West and stumbled upon the Americas, home to the chili plant and a host of other new spices.

The dawn of the 16th century would see the re-shaping of the world economy, an enormous expansion of our knowledge of the world and bring cataclysmic changes for indigenous populations across the globe  –  and it was all down to a burning desire to spice up everyday food.

About Sean Flint
Development & Innovation Chef of SK Foods.
Your food. Our Passion.