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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, June 29, 2000




By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Kathe Charais of Honolulu Spice Traders mixes up spices.

Here, variety is
the spice of life

Cooks in parts of the ancient world lacked even salt until commerce changed cuisine forever.

If your palate cringes at the very idea, treat yourself to a visit to Honolulu Spice Traders on Monsarrat Avenue, where the scents of cumin, saffron and vanilla perfume the imagination.

In a cost comparison of a half-dozen common spices, prices at Honolulu Spice Traders ranged from competitive with local grocery stores to substantially lower. And the store, formerly the Kitchen & Spice Co., carries many spices that are uncommon. Cardamom pods sell for $2.50 an ounce, fenugreek is $1.13 an ounce and sumac, $1.58.

Even common spices are offered in an uncommonly broad varieties. Cayenne, for example, is available in four levels of heat: 40,000, 60,000, 90,000 or 140,000 Scoville heat units, all at $1.50 an ounce. According to co-owner Kathe Charais, most bottled cayenne peppers are 40,000 or less.

With a minimum purchase of 1 ounce or $1 of each spice (whichever is higher), one complicated recipe doesn't have to mean six bottles of spices sitting on the shelf for years.

The store's most popular items include about 20 house blends. "The spicy seasonings are really popular. People in Hawaii love hot stuff," said Charais.

Honolulu Spice Traders also sells coffees, teas, hot sauces and other specialty foods. And it has a deli counter catered by Sweet Country Kitchen.

But the main focus is still spices. The store even carries salt: Kiawe smoked seasoned salt (84 cents an ounce), Kauai alaea red seasoned salt (67 cents), original Hawaiian-style seasoned salt (67 cents), plain red alaea salt (32 cents), curing salt (21 cents), white kamaaina sea salt (11 cents). kosher salt (40 cents), refined sea salt (21 cents), micropowder salt (40 cents) and regular seasoned salt ($1).

By Stephanie Kendrick

We love high culture -- theater, dance, music, cinema -- but weekends are also made for shopping. Shopping Fanatic is a Thursday feature dedicated to the pursuit of finds beyond the malls.

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