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Ethnic Spices And Condiments - The Best Way To Maximize Flavor

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June 7, 2017 / International / By
ETG - Food For Thought

Using spices and condiments allows you to enhance the taste of your dishes by adding aroma and flavors. Spices can also change or heighten the color of a dish, making it more appealing. Salt and pepper are generally used to add more taste to the food, but there are numerous other options to make your food taste better and bring out the natural flavors of the ingredients. Ethnic spices are perfect for making ethnic dishes or to recreate a taste that you loved so much during your vacation. Some spices and condiments are great for meat, while others are better for vegetables. Here’s a short guide of some of the most popular ethnic spices and condiments that will come in handy when you want to try something new in your kitchen:

Allspice

Originally from Jamaica, allspice is used everywhere in Jamaica but also in the entire Caribbean region. Usually, allspice is used in meat marinades. The flavor of allspice is a combination of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.

Thyme

The taste of thyme is similar with the taste of cloves. This spice is used in various cuisines all around the world including Cajun, Creole, Middle Eastern, American and Caribbean. Thyme is perfect for spicy dishes due to its strong taste.

Bay Leaves

Not a spice, but a cooking herb, bay leaves are used during cooking, especially in stocks and sauces, but should be discarded after and not eaten. There are different kinds of bay leaves you can find on the market including California and Mediterranean bay leaves. This cooking herb can be purchased dried all year round from most grocery stores.

Saffron

Saffron is quite expensive and it is usually used in Spanish dishes, such as Paella. This spice is highly concentrated and it should be used only in small amounts. It is preferable to buy fresh saffron not dry saffron and to soak it in water before adding the mixture to your recipe. In this way, you will be able to bring out the flavor of saffron without using too much.

Rosemary

Rosemary is a very aromatic spice that goes well with oven baked potatoes or fatty meat, such as pork. The texture of rosemary is similar to pine needles. It is recommended to use fresh rosemary in dishes but if you cannot find it at your local store, buy it dry and chop it finely before adding it to the dishes or remove it after cooking.

Basil

In Italian cuisine basil is used a lot for its refreshing flavors that are somehow a mix of mint, clove and anise. There are various kinds of basil you can purchase including Thai basil if you want to prepare Asian dishes, Genovese basil and lemon or lime flavored basil. Fresh basil is definitely better than dried basil since the flavor is more powerful, but if you cannot find fresh basil to add at the end of the cooking process, add dried basil at the beginning to give the spice some time to develop its flavor.

Cilantro

Cilantro or coriander is similar to parsley and it has a citrus flavor and a strong smell. Cilantro can be stored in the refrigerator, wrapped in paper towels and can be used in different types of dishes. Latin America, Asia and Middle Eastern cuisines are known for their traditional cilantro flavored dishes.

Curry

Curry powder is used a lot in Indian cuisine but also in Jamaican and Thai cuisine. The curry powder we all know is actually a combination of spices. The blend usually includes turmeric, coriander, cumin and fenugreek.

Chili

Same as curry, chili powder is actually a mix of spices. The most common spices used in chili powder are chili peppers/paprika, oregano, cumin and garlic. Chili is usually used in spicy dishes and it can be purchased hot or mild. The mild version contains paprika, while the hot version contains chili peppers. Chili powder is mostly used in Mexican cuisine but there are numerous other cuisines that embraced this spicy mix during the last decade.

Peppercorns

Black peppercorns are most common but you can find other varieties at your grocery store including pink, green, white peppercorns and even various mixes of these types. While fresh black pepper is mainly used to finish a dish, the other varieties are generally used in sauces.

Cloves

Native from Indonesia, cloves are very popular in Asian cuisine but are also used in numerous European and North African dishes. Cloves have a very distinct aroma, they are not hot but rather spicy and should be used in small quantities.

Cayenne Pepper

Also known as red ground pepper, cayenne pepper is a hot seasoning used all around the world in spicy dishes but a must in Spanish, Cajun, Creole and Mexican cuisine. If you want to try this spice but you don’t want to make a hot and spicy meal, use just a pinch of cayenne pepper during cooking.

Kosher Salt

Professional cooks tend to use kosher salt instead of regular salt because the taste of this type of salt is less salty than the taste of regular table salt. The texture of kosher salt is also different (larger grain size) and it allows you to use as much as you want into a dish.

Cumin

Cumin has an earthy flavor and a pungent smell. Popular in North Africa, Middle East and Latin America, cumin is great for seasoning beans and vegetarian dishes. Besides regular cumin, you can also buy black cumin, a more expensive and complex in flavor type of cumin that grows in Iran.

Ginger

Another spice commonly used in Asian cuisine, ginger has a hot and spicy taste when purchased fresh and a milder flavor when you buy it powdered. Other ethnic cuisines embraced ginger as well and it is now a popular spice for vegetable and fruit dishes.

Shallots

Shallots are small French onions that taste like onion and garlic together. Since they are imported from France the price is usually higher than that of white onions but if you want just a hint of garlic flavor in your food, shallots are the best option.

Scallions

Another great replacement for white onions are scallions, also referred to as green onions or spring onions. Scallions are perfect for those who prefer a mild taste of onions in their dishes.

Habanero peppers & Scotch Bonnet Peppers

If you are not a fan of spicy hot foods, do not add habanero peppers or scotch bonnet peppers to your dishes! These peppers are considered some of the spicier peppers in the world. Scotch bonnet peppers are mostly used in Jamaica to make Jerk Chicken whereas habanero peppers can be found in numerous Caribbean dishes. These peppers look slightly different but the taste and the heat are similar.

Jalapeno Pepper

If you want to add peppers to your dish and to make it a little spicy but not too hot, use jalapeno peppers. These peppers are very popular in Mexican cuisine but nowadays they are used all over the world.

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