INTERNATIONAL SPICES



—  🇺🇦  🇷🇺Horse Radish - Jewish Dristan  —  

Chrein” (sometimes spelled and pronounced differently, like “Hhrain” and usually called Jewish Dristan because it will clear your sinuses)  to Gefilte fish is the same as Laurel and Hardy, Desi and Lucille, Scotch and Soda. It’s a marriage, a bond, a unity, and since its Jewish, an experience of course handed down with just like Pepto Bismol and Bromo-Seltzer.   The horseradish is a root ground into a traditional relish (in texture) either made from the  horseradish alone, beets and horseradish, and now there are other aberrations and can be found in any kosher deli, or in the kosher section of many grocery stores. Some milder than others.  Originally Eastern Europe Ukraine and Russia


GEFILTE FISH  —  It is served with Gefilte fish which is an Ashkenazi Jewish dish made from a poached mixture of ground boned fish, such as fresh water carp, whitefish or pike, which is typically eaten as an appetizer. My grandmother was the Grand Gefilterer in the family and her secret blend (ratio) of different fishes was a secret she taught to my mother, and that old grinder that clamped on the kitchen table was her workshop.  Never disclosed to mere mortals like myself, each “bahleh buster” (a compliment to a Jewish woman who ran a good house) kept their secret blend handing it down to a daughter..

Gefilte fish is bland, somewhat sweet shaped in a cutlet form. It needed something. A fish cutlet with a much-needed kick, Chrein came along and they have been together since.  Mayo, Butter, Ketchup, Mustard didn’t work out.  It must be Chrein.  Making the Chrein was my Grandfathers job. they were a team.

Traditionally, carp, pike, fresh water mullet, or whitefish in combo were used to make gefilte fish, since access to the ocean was not possible, but more recently other fish with white flesh such as Nile Perch have been used, and there is a pink variation using salmon. There are even vegetarian variations.

Ingredients in addition to the fish blend, include browned cooking onions, salt, pepper, and 3 to 5 eggs. Add vegetable oil (traditionally sunflower oil) may also be added if the fish is lean.

The fish is deboned and the flesh mixed with ingredients, including bread crumbs or matzoh meal, and fried onion. Cooking takes as much as 3 hours in traditional recipes, although in modern recipes the cooking time is often briefer. The resultant log-shaped mixture is sliced, and usually served cold or at room temperature. Often, each slice is topped with a slice of carrot, with a horseradish mixture called  on the side.

Due to the general poverty of the Jewish population in Europe, the 'economic' recipe for the above also may have included extra ground and soaked matza meal or bread crumbs creating many more "spare" fish balls. 

This form of preparation eliminated the need for picking out fish bones at the table, and "stretched" the fish further, so that even poor, but often large, families could enjoy fish on Shabbat. Not only is picking bones religiously prohibited on the Sabbath, but many of the commonly used fish such as carp are exceptionally bony and difficult to eat easily in whole form.


HORSERADISH and “IZZY”
Chrein means "horseradish" in Russian. In the Old Country the plant grew everywhere: backyards, fields, parks. Grandmothers would collect its juicy leaves to use in pickling--when added to the brine, they help pickled cucumbers retain their crunchiness. Slavs and Jews ate Chrein in relish form year round, on sandwiches, with meats, and poultry. The popularity of this easy-to-make, cheap topping was extremely wide-spread.

My grandfather, mentor and best friend growing up,  “Izzy” to his grandchildren was like Merlin the magician to the horseradish, carefully grinding and blending the horse radish, the vinegar and salt and bottling it, burying it in the basement to ferment and then refrigerating it to keep its pungency. Homemade prepared horseradish is about twice as strong as store-bought versions, and lasts about 3 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator or till it eats through the glass. (just kidding, don’t use plastic containers)

People either love horseradish or they hate it. One bite of pungent prepared horseradish is enough to clear out anyone’s sinuses.  It is sometimes hotter than the popular Japanese version of Wasabi. 

When he opened a bottle, after carefully fermenting it in the depths of his basement, sinuses for three blocks around cleared, paint fell off walls, glass shattered….powerful till the fumes went away and you took the smallest fork tips worth to your plate.  

While a side-kick every other week of the year, Chrein makes a solo appearance on during Passover, acting as maror--the bitter herb on the seder plate.  Many Jews buy the prepackaged supermarket brands, but some people have the tradition of going back to Chrein's roots--that is, the roots of the horseradish plant, which they themselves grind to create fresh and pungent mar or. Just as my Grandfather did fifty years ago. Sinuses beware.

Yet, you do not need to be Eastern European, and you don't need to wait for Passover, to put together your own fresh batch of chrein. Made from scratch, it is a delicious alternative to mustard and wasabi sauces (indeed, horseradish belongs to the same Brassicaceae family of plants as mustard and wasabi). It works with deli meats, with roast beef either alone or creamed, grains, or as a dip for baby-carrots and crackers.  


SOY SAUCE —  AN INTERESTING SAUCE

Soy sauce (also called soya sauce) is a condiment made from a fermented paste of boiled soybeans, roasted grain, brine, and Aspergillus oryzae or Aspergillus sojae molds.  Soy sauce is a dark, rich, complex flavorful salt like condiment that is ground zero for most Asian cooking, because it is unique, is a salt carrier, a substitute but it is salt and comes from originally the other side of the world.  I’m in Tampa bay Florida  and anything since I’m living four miles from water is the other side of the world.

It’s the little bottle you see on the table at most Chinese and some other ethic restaurants.  I love it on anything and use it in much of in my cooking.  Some just sprinkle it on or over the rice dishes for extra flavor on the beef and peppers they order.  It works with anything, BUT…read on…

SOY SAUCE OR FAKE SOY SAUCE

Chinese soy sauces are primarily made from soybeans, with relatively low amounts of other grains.  Chinese soy sauce can be roughly split into two classes: brewed or blended.

Most Chinese food take-out soy sauce (also called soya sauce) in the United States is not really soy sauce; it is not fermented, but is a combination of ingredients, depending on the manufacturer, including corn syrup, water, salt, caramel color, vegetable protein, and sodium benzoate.   In my culture, and this website,  we call this rip off  “McDonaldized”  just like all their processed products.  

The traditional method for brewing soy sauce requires multiple steps and can take a days to months to complete, depending on the recipe.

To make soy sauce, soybeans are first cooked to soften the bean. Next, bacterial and fungal cultures are added to begin the fermentation process. Roasted wheat or other grains may also be added to this mixture to provide a unique flavor.

The soybean culture mixture is combined with a salt brine and allowed to “brew” for a specific amount of time. During this process, the microorganisms break down proteins and sugars that are naturally found in the soybeans into numerous compounds that create the complex flavor and color of soy sauce.

After the fermentation process, the mixture is pressed to extract the dark brown, flavorful liquid. The resulting solids are often used as animal feed. Before the extracted liquid is packaged and sold as soy sauce, it is pasteurized to eliminate any harmful microorganisms and filtered to reduce particles and other debris.


HERES THE RUB

Soy sauce originated in China sometime between the 3rd and 5th century from a meat-based fermented sauce named jiang . Its use later spread to East and Southeast Asia. Like many salty condiments, soy sauce was originally a way to salt, historically an expensive commodity.

In ancient China, fermented fish with salt was used as a condiment in which soybeans were included during the fermentation process. Eventually, this was replaced and the recipe for soy sauce, using soybeans as the principal ingredient, with fermented fish-based sauces developing separately into fish sauce.

  • Records of the Dutch East India Company list soy sauce as a commodity in 1737, when seventy-five large barrels were shipped from Dejima, Japan, to Batavia (present-day Jakarta) on the island of Java.
  •  Thirty-five barrels from that shipment were then shipped to the Netherlands.
  •  In the 18th century, diplomat and scholar Isaac Titsingh published accounts of brewing soy sauce. Although earlier descriptions of soy sauce had been disseminated in the West, his was among the earliest to focus specifically on the brewing of the Japanese version. 
  • By the mid-19th century, Japanese soy sauce gradually disappeared from the European market, and the condiment became synonymous with the Chinese product.
  •  Europeans were unable to make soy sauce because they did not understand the function of Aspergillus oryzae, the fungus used in its brewing.Soy sauce made from ingredients such as Portobello mushrooms were disseminated in European cookbooks during the late 18th century. 
  • A Swedish recipe for “Sonja" was published in 1770 and was flavored with allspice and mace.

KIKKOMAN vs. ARTIFICIAL
Kikkoman is a recommended product - The color of naturally brewed Kikkoman Soy Sauce is a clear reddish-brown, and it is well-balanced in terms of flavor and aroma.  By contrast, chemically produced soy sauce usually has a cloudy, dark color; its taste is unpleasant and strong, and it's chemically produced aroma is obvious.

During the natural brewing process, soybean proteins are naturally dissolved by enzymes. Hydrochloric acid is used in chemically produced soy sauce: it does not undergo any form of the brewing process and is generally manufactured within several weeks.

As a result, the color, flavor and aroma of chemically produced soy sauce are not natural—they’re created artificially using corn syrup, salt, caramel coloring and other additives. It’s no wonder that this completely synthetic soy sauce is inferior in every way to naturally brewed Kikkoman Soy Sauce. I go with the KIKKOMAN by far, matching taste, value, availability, and authenticity.


THOSE LITTLE TAKE OUTS
From this vantage, soy-sauce packets appear not to be optimized for the substance they contain—a substance that, it should be noted, isn’t even technically soy sauce.  Packaged soy sauce is often a cocktail of processed ingredients that resemble the real thing: water, salt, food coloring, corn syrup, MSG, and preservatives. 

But soy sauce, strictly defined, refers to a fermented combination of soybeans and wheat whose earliest direct predecessor was first mentioned in writing in the year 1600’s and later recorded as being shipped in the 1700’s. 

Soy Sauce is a relatively fragile sauce that can easily develop fishy, off-flavors if not stored properly.   Soy sauce’s two main enemies are light and heat, so be sure to store it in a dark place away from a heat source preferably in the fridge. Once a bottle of soy sauce is opened, keep it in the fridge if you don't expect to use all of the soy sauce particularly if its in a clear glass bottle. To save money, you can purchase large metal cans of soy sauce and store them in a dark cupboard, refilling a smaller glass container in your refrigerator as needed.


OSHAWA ORGANIC NAMA SHOYU - UNPASTEURIZED SOY SAUCE
Recommended in several places on the web as being the top of the hill in authenticity, quality and taste.
This soy sauce is made in Japan with the traditional fermentation process, aged in cedar wood kegs in small batches. It’s also unpasteurized meaning that all of those lovely enzymes and beneficial bacteria (like lactobacillus) are still alive.

This soy sauce was named the best tasting soy sauce by the Cooks magazine, and we think it’s the best tasting too. There are some great prices on Amazon, as well as many other places who sell it online. 
My second place choice would be a naturally fermented soy sauce, which you can find in many normal grocery stores like the brand KIKKOMAN

All to say, don’t settle for cheap manmade soy sauce. It’s really not that good a savings,  and since the better sauce is more intense and you need less, it balances out.

  • Contains: OG whole soybeans, water, OG whole wheat, sea salt, and aspergillus oryzae (koji).
  • Organically grown with whole soybeans, mountain spring water, organic whole wheat and sea salt.
  • Ohsawa® Nama® Shoyu is the only soy sauce that's fresh and alive!
  • It is unpasteurized, enzyme- and lactobacillus-rich, and aged four years in cedar kegs.
  • It is truly the “Champagne of Soy Sauces”. 
  • Kosher Certified

WARNING - Now heres a slight problem, this sauce is expensive,  it might be found in a gourmet store, definitely on Amazon which is a better idea since several complained about one distributor.  A huge percentage of the buyers said they received it leaking, possible due to it being fermented and not sealed correctly.   If you see it on your grocers shelf, or at a ethic grocery store or section, check the bottle, it might be wise to spend the extra pennies to make sure the bottle is OK.


🇮🇳  INDIAN CURRY

Curry is a generic description used throughout Eastern and some European cultures to describe a general variety of side dishes, best known in Indian cuisine. There is also a curry tree. So curry has two meanings. As a style or presentation of food and an actual herb found in the leaves of the curry tree.   The word “  curry” has significance and popularity in Jamaica because of the Indian influence being a former British protectorate.

Likened to stew or thick soup in the West.  No particular ingredient makes something “Curry.” The Indian cooks and chefs do it with selections or side dishes, with blends of spices which is a “ Curried dish" and understood to mean "gravy" or "sauce" rather than "spices".  

For example the starter dish we use under Chicken may be expanded with small diced potatoes added or pineapple and carrots and it is still a "Curry". Type "Curry dishes in Google", and you get 2.5 million hits.

Curry's popularity in recent decades has spread outward from the Indian subcontinent to figure prominently in international cuisine. Consequently, each culture has adopted spices in its indigenous cooking to suit its own unique tastes and cultural sensibilities. 

Curry can therefore be called a pan-Asian or global phenomenon with immense popularity in Thai, British, Indian, and Japanese cuisines.  


CURRY IS ALSO A TREE - WITH LEAVES BUT...

WARNING:  The small black shiny berries are edible, but their seeds are highly poisonous, permanently poisonous.

It is also a small tree, growing 4-6 meters tall, with a trunk up to 40cm diameter. The leaves are pinnate, with 11-21 leaflets, each leaflet 2-4 cm long and 1-2 cm broad. They are highly aromatic. The flowers are small, white, and fragrant. 

But the leaves of Murraya Koenigii are also used as a herb in Ayurvedic medicine. In Western medicine, Ayurveda is classified as a system of complementary and alternative medicine that is used to complement, rather than replace, the treatment regimen and relationship that exists between a patient and their existing physician. 

Ayurveda is grounded in a metaphysics of the "five great elements" earth, water, fire, air and ether all of which compose the Universe, including the human body. Plasma, blood, flesh, fat, bone, marrow,and semen or female reproductive tissue are held to be the seven primary constituent elements. 

The properties claimed include much value as an anti-diabetic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, hepato-protective, anti-hypercholesterolemic etc. 

Curry leaves are also known to be good for hair, for keeping it healthy and long. I have been rubbing it on my bald spot to get my hair back but I'm losing too many friends, asking me where I ate lunch.  Although most commonly used in curries, leaves from the curry tree can be used in many other dishes to add spice as a plain seasoning.

CURRY MAY CONTAIN
We ate a lot of curried dishes mainly served over rice with goat, chicken, and fish.  Curry may be made with the following depending on where you live in the world.  

Red curry with spices like clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, bay leaf, coriander powder, cumin seeds/powder, black pepper powder, red hot chili peppers/powder, asafetida  ghee, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, turmeric, mustard seeds and mustard oil are added to many recipes, as are poppy seeds.   Lahori Karahi curry incorporates garlic, spices and vinegar. 

Peshawari karahi is a simple dish made with just meat, salt, tomatoes and coriander. Each place we visited had their secret sauce just like Kentucky Fried Chicken brought down by generation.



🇮🇳 GARAM MASALA   (HERBS OF INDIA)

The French do it and call it “ Herbs de Provence” and the Chinese make a combo called “Five-spice powder”.  The recipe in Indian homes changes from region to region within northern India and even changes from house to house where it might even be a closely guarded secret.

Blends may contain Rosebuds  [Found in Indian or Middle Eastern markets)
Black cardamom, and fennel seeds (in the style of Kashmir)
Royal cumin (shahi or kala zeera, also found in Indian markets)
Garam Masala is only added at the last step of cooking, almost like a fresh herb, because it tends to become bitter if cooked too long.  If you are not into mixing herbs 
McCormick’s GOURMET or 


TYPE ONE SIMPLE - INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

DIRECTIONS - Mix cumin, coriander, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg in a bowl. Place mix in an airtight container, and store in a cool, dry place.


TYPE TWO - MORE COMPLEX INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon dried miniature rosebuds (optional)
A 1-inch piece cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup cumin seeds
1/3 cup coriander seeds
1 tablespoon green cardamom pods
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 dried red chile
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground mace

DIRECTIONS - If the roses have stems, break them off and discard.  Heat the roses with the cinnamon, bay leaves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, whole peppercorns, cloves, and chile in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the cumin becomes brown, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder or coffee mill, add the nutmeg and mace, and grind until powder fine. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 months.

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🇲🇽 TACO SEASONING MIX  (HERBOS DE MEXICO

Taco seasoning is one of my favorite spice mixes.  Sadly, store bought taco seasoning is full of nasty stuff with an ingredients label that reads like a chemistry textbook. If you’ve been wondering how to replace those small packets of MSG-riddled spices with something real, you should give this recipe for homemade taco seasoning a try.

Not only is this homemade taco seasoning more nutritious, it’s also cheap! 

INGREDIANTS
2 tablespoons onion powder1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground oregano
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Optional   1/4 treaspoon Sirachi Powder (Tone)

DIRECTIONS Mix onion powder, chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, oregano, sugar, and salt together in a small bowl.

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🇫🇷  HERBES DE PROVENCE  (VIVA LA FRANCE)

Herbes de Provence is a mixture of dried herbs typical of the Provence region of southeast France. Formerly simply a descriptive term, commercial blends started to be sold under this name in the 1970s   These mixtures typically contain savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and other herbs. 

In the North American market, lavender leaves are also typically included, though lavender does not appear in the recipes in Jean-Baptiste Reboul's 1910 compendium of Provençal cooking.

As the name herbes de Provence is generic, and not a Protected Geographical Status, there is no guarantee that any herb mixture on the market actually comes from Provence; indeed, the vast majority of these blends come from central and eastern Europe, North Africa, and China.

Herbes de Provence are used to flavour grilled foods such as fish and meat, as well as vegetable stews. The mixture can be added to foods before or during cooking or mixed with cooking oil prior to cooking so as to infuse the flavour into the cooked food. They are rarely added after cooking is complete.  It was in the 1970s that homogenized mixtures were formulated by spice wholesalers, including notably Ducros in France (now part of McCormick & Company).


INGREDIANTS

2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon fennel seed
2 tablespoons dried savory
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried marjoram
2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
2 tablespoons dried Italian parsley
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon bay powder

DIRECTIONS Grind rosemary and fennel seed in a spice grinder; transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir savory, thyme, basil, marjoram, lavender, parsley, oregano, tarragon, and bay powder with the rosemary and fennel. Store in an air-tight container between uses.



ALLSPICE

CARIBBEAN CUISINE

The second main ingredient in JERK Chicken and other dishes is Allspice.  It is also called Jamaica pepper, kurundu, or myrtle pepper.  

It is a spice which is the dried unripe "berries" of Pimenta Dioica , a mid-canopy tree native to the Greater Antilles, southern Mexico and Central America, now cultivated in many warm parts of the world. 

The name “ Allspice" was coined as early as 1621 by the English, who thought it combined the flavor of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  Allspice is one of the most important ingredients of Caribbean cuisine. It is used extensively in the Caribbean with jerk seasoning where the wood is used to "smoke" the Jerk Chicken in Jamaica.  

Allspice is also indispensable in Middle Eastern cuisine, particularly in the Levant, In Palestinian cuisine, for example, many main dishes call for allspice as the sole spice added for flavoring. 

In America, it is used and is also responsible for giving a unique flavor when used correctly on many dishes to create that Caribbean flavor.

06/04/2021   aljacobsladder.com