If you plan to cook while traveling, bringing a few of your own ingredients can really improve your meals, especially if you're staying in an out-of-the-way location or bare bones vacation rental. But this doesn't have to mean lugging crates full of condiments and fresh produce. I've narrowed down my travel kit to these five easy-to-pack spices that hit the major flavor notes — salty, sour, sweet, aromatic, and spicy.
- Salty: A good finishing salt can elevate the plainest of meals, and you don't need to use much to make an impact. Fleur de sel is quite versatile, or you could pack a special favorite such as smoked salt, truffle salt, or Sriracha salt.
- Sour: Traveling with souring agents like fresh lemons or a bottle of vinegar isn't always practical. Sumac, however, is easy to carry and this zingy spice can add tartness to everything from grilled meats to salad dressings and dips.
- Sweet: A sweet spice like cinnamon has many uses, whether you're making pastries, fruit desserts, savory dishes, or just sprinkling it on your morning oatmeal/yogurt/toast. Cinnamon water is also an easy, refreshing beverage.
- Aromatic: When you can't or don't want to mess with fresh garlic, granulated garlic can provide savory, pungent flavor to rubs, marinades, sauces, pizzas, and more. I prefer granulated garlic to garlic powder, but either will do in a pinch.
- Spicy: The dried chile pequín may be small, but it packs quite a bit of fire with a smoky, citrus-y flavor. Just one or two of these little guys can spice up a pot of chile or a stir fry.
(Image: Emily Han)