A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to visit the newest location of Silk Road Spice Merchant, a Calgary-based shop specializing in all things spices and herbs. The owners were in Calgary when I visited so I didn’t get the opportunity to talk to them, but the employees present quickly filled me in on the shop’s history.
What started as an online store for fresh spices has now evolved into two storefronts, one in Calgary’s Inglewood neighborhood and their newest in Edmonton’s own Whyte Avenue. The owners are avid cooks and found that sourcing fresh spices, herbs, and chiles for recipes was very difficult, sometimes shopping at multiple stores in order to complete their list of ingredients. Much like how you can buy whole coffee beans at your local coffee shop and whole tea leaves at your favourite tea shop, why wasn’t there a store specializing in spices of all kinds? Hurray for Silk Road Spice Merchant! What’s great is that they order their spices in smaller batches and grind what they can in-store, thereby offering fresher and more aromatic spices.
My last trip to Calgary had me meandering through the Inglewood neighbourhood and I actually found their shop by accident. It was amazing. The first thing that hits you, the aromas. Hints of cinnamon, a waft of curry. Talk about foodie heaven. And think of the possibilities. You could cook anything! Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican. A whole store with every spice you would ever need and make your brain hurt thinking how you’d organize such a collection. I was focused though and left the shop with the Chai Masala, one of their premixed spice blends (all of which are made in-house and tested recipes). I’m not chai expert, but I drink enough chai lattes now that I think I should start making them at home. Silk Road Spice Merchant’s blend was a pretty good start. Next step: making my own mix for my own taste!
Anyways, I digress. About the Edmonton location! Located on Whyte Avenue, the shop is next door is also Calgary-born Knifewear, making the west side of Whyte a close-knit community. The store is wide open, seemingly bigger than its sister in Calgary. Walls are lined with spices, rows and rows of fresh whole spices intermixed with freshly ground varieties and their own mixes, like the Chai Masala I had bought in Calgary. I’m so excited to try out some recipes! Maybe one day I can try something super exotic, like Ethopian Berbere or Turkish Baharat (whaaa?). I feel like those need a little bit more research.
The most adorable apothecary cabinets dot the space, and spices are organized by cuisine, which makes sense. There’s books and references, spice storage options, bitters for cocktails, and if all the spices and products overwhelm you, the employees are super helpful and very knowledgeable about the products!
I’m most excited to make a fresh batch of Vietnamese pho using their spices. Growing up, I remember my mom roasting ginger, daikon, whole star anise pods, cinnamon sticks, and cloves before tying the spices up into a “bouquet garni” and adding it into the pho broth. Every time I smell star anise now, I think of a hot bowl of pho is only a few hours away. I’ve got my star anise and settled with freshly ground Vietnamese cinnamon (different from your usual cinnamon) since they were out of the actual bark. I honestly can’t wait! Also nabbed myself some Thai green curry powder to slowly ease myself into Thai cooking!
During my visit, the forefront of the store was empty but they hope to rearrange the bitters there and are thinking about installing a section that showcases locally sourced products and spices, pending availability. Such a wonderful addition to Whyte Avenue and Edmonton’s food scene! Drop by the shop (guaranteed once you walk past and their doors are open, the smells will lure you in) or visit their website to order online. They have a full catalogue of their products both in-store and online, with listed prices by weight (small bags and large bags available) and by the jar. Congrats to Silk Road Spice Merchant on a their opening and I’m looking forward to expanding my cooking repertoire with fresh spices!Silk Road Spice Merchant
10818 82nd Ave