An Audience with the Sultan

Hello again, everyone. Today, we’re looking at a brand new addition to my sidebar. Another company who’ve sent me something free to feature. And, this time, it’s not a sauce.

It’s a pair of curry kits, containing all of the necessary spices for two full meals and their sides:

Two of the most popular products from The Spice Sultan – Their Thai Yellow and Sri Lankan Coconut & Lime flavours. Both tangy, coconut-forward curry styles, based on authentic spice blends from the founder’s asian backpacking adventures.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

Inside the first pack, we have two sachets. One completely dwarfed by the other:

The small one contains mixed red pepper flakes which, unlike some, actually have a decent kick to them. They’re part bell pepper, part bird’s eye and included as part of a traditional condiment. A blend of chilli, fish sauce and fresh lime, known as “nam prik”.

The larger of the two, however, is where the real magic happens. Its yellow colour immediately betraying the fact that this is a turmeric-heavy blend of curry spices.

It is, in fact, The Spice Sultan’s yellow curry blend and it contains:

coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, chilli flakes, white pepper, bay leaf, cloves, chilli, galangal, cinnamon, lemongrass

The majority of which I do have in my spice cupboard but not pre-prepared, ready mixed and in the right ratios. So to have this sachet good to go is quite convenient, to say the least. And, since I’m not that well versed in cooking thai at home, so, too, are the instructions underneath.

They’re clear, concise and easy to follow, with a few optional tweaks, highlighted in green, in case you’d rather make a vegan version.

And, in this first case, I actually did. I cut out the chicken and made a beautiful tofu variant, in order to share the thai yellow with my vegetarian family. Serving it up with a side of rice and a decorative garnish:

An earthy, lightly tangy, coconut-based dish with a medium,

warmth around the back of my mouth. All cooked to perfection within the allotted time and, in most respects, uncannily close to what I’ve had at top-notch thai restaurants.

Yet, as full of flavour as the spices were, there was still something missing. A lack of the brightness and natural sweetness that I’ve come to expect, in amongst my veg. And that wasn’t something that the

nam prik was going to fix.

No, while the dark, salty, soy-based, vegan take on that condiment was great for adding extra tang, umami and a touch of heat, I still think that a little bit of pineapple and fresh, red or orange pepper would have gone a long way to livening up my meal.

Which is to say that, while the kit is great and I absolutely cannot fault anything within, I do think that the resulting dish could use a couple of extra ingredients, ontop of what its recipe calls for. Unlike the Sri Lankan Coconut & Lime.

Upon opening that second pack, there’s a very obvious difference:

Two full-size spice sachets, rather than one large and one pack of pepper flakes. The curry blend completely hidden by the spices for the rice.

I liked the nam prik. It was a clever use of simple ingredients. But the pack of pepper flakes is something that any of us could easily replicate. Or just go out and buy.

This yellow rice blend, on the other hand, looks like something that actually took effort and understanding to make. And its ingredients, while only a short list, definitely further that impression. They are:

black mustard seeds, onion powder, turmeric, ginger, asafoetida, cinnamon.

And the asafoetida, in particular, stands out as something that few westerners use. A fermented rice gum, colloquially known as “devil’s dung” for its foul aroma, when raw, yet used all over and india for the rich, earthy undertones that it adds to curries. Ones which loosely resemble either turmeric or garlic but don’t share those pungent top notes.

Sri Lanka, being just off the main continent, shares wholeheartedly in india’s love of the spice and it’s great to see it at play here. Yet that’s just the side. The rice.

The spices for the main dish are a far longer but, in my opinion, less assuming list:

coriander, turmeric, cumin, fennel, garlic powder, cinnamon, green cardamom, chilli powder, fenugreek, black peppercorns, cloves, black mustard seed.

One with a fair few similarities to that of the thai.

It uses black pepper, where its counterpart used white, however. And, while the thai yellow used the traditional galangal and ginger, this curry seems to focus more on fennel, garlic powder and fenugreek. As well as a whole fresh onion that The Spice Sultan expects me to add.

Which sounds like work, when phrased that way, but also means that the absolutely stuffed sachet that they’ve sent me is nothing but the good stuff.

They could easily have bulked it out with onion powder, yet they opted for more spices, instead. And the taste is only going to be improved by using the fresh bulb.

Plus, it smells delicious as its spicy, aromatic compounds fry off.

This dish is slightly more complicated to cook than the last, since you’re timing both rice and curry to be ready at once, but the simple instructions are still easy to follow take out all of the potential guess work. Just so long as you pay attention to which set you’re following.

For the Sri Lankan Coconut & Lime Curry, the vegan option is a mix of roasted butternut and cauliflower. Which requires a few more changes than simply swapping chicken out for tofu, like I did earlier. Including ten minutes more cook time.

And sure, you could still go off recipe to use the tofu in this dish. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

The savoury, slightly tangy, creamy sauce of this particular curry really benefits from the richness of the chicken – Or roasted veg – and I don’t think that the subtler taste of tofu would work nearly as well.

Yet, as is, it’s delicious. A highly indulgent dinner with a surprise kick of

heat chilli in the tail. And an extra umami, from its cored tomatoes – Much like in my recent gazpacho – that really complements the meat.

It’s not missing anything, like the Thai Yellow seemed to be. Though I do have one complaint: My rice burnt.

Only a tiny bit, at the very bottom, so I still had most of a pan full, in which to enjoy the sweet raisins and deep, savoury spices. But, even so, that shouldn’t have happened while following the instructions.

So, would I recommend purchasing these kits? Absolutely. The spice blends are excellent and the recipes are easy to follow. And they actually do serve three hungry people, rather than the two that “2-3” usually means.

Sure, the Thai Yellow Curry could use a handful of pineapple and half a red bell or ramiro pepper and the Yellow Rice could use a minute or two less time on the heat. But those are easy tweaks to make and they’re otherwise restaurant quality meals.

The Spice Sultan are well worth checking out and I’m sure that I’ll be trying more from them soon.

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