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Shopping: Critic's Pick

Best Place to Obtain Obscure Ingredients

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Central Market
4821 Broadway, (210) 368-8600, centralmarket.com

On any given morning, one can spy a chef or a foodie standing in aisle five of Central Market before rows of salts, rubs and sugars like an old man in a hardware store—examining and contemplating. Are you dreaming of black truffle salt or a coarse pink salt? Find it in aisle five, along with three full racks of spices from Spice Islands, Morton & Basset in San Francisco and Central Market’s own organic, moderately-priced line. Chinese five spice and garam masala are here, too. The real trove of obscure spices, however, is in the bulk food section: za’atar, sumac, star anise, cardamom in pods, seeds and ground, just to name a few. There’s even more salts, like Cypress black lava salt, Hawaiian pink salt and Thai ginger salt. By far the best thing about buying something obscure in bulk is the ability to package however small or large a quantity you need: Beef broth for pho calls for only three star anise and the two or three cardamom pods you need for that batch of Indian basmati rice will barely cost a buck. All of a sudden, your little boneless, skinless chicken breast or salmon fillet seems to hold a lot more potential.

Shopping: Critic's Pick
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