Mar 1 2012

curry leaves

SPICE

My favorite spice is actually a herb! I adore curry leaves. They have nothing to do with curry powder or curry! They are gorgeous green and shiny but the poor things have had to deal with such an identity crisis as people often mistake them as a substitute for curry powder when, in fact, they have no relation to each other (curry powder is ground spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, coriander etc. and depending on the powder, may or may not have curry leaves). Curry leaves, popularly known in India as Kari Patta, are aromatic and flavorful leaves that can change the taste of a dish quite dramatically by adding a pungent lemony flavor to dishes. I have found no herb that adequately duplicates their flavor. These are easily available in Asian grocery stores in and around the DC metro area. And, of course, on Amazon. If you want to grow them yourself, try nurseries like Acorn Creek: ask for curry leaves (Murraya koenigii), not a curry plant (Helichrysum italicum).

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Jun 21 2011

long pepper

SPICE

One of my favorite spices is the Indonesian long pepper. It is a relative to black pepper but hotter and more complex with hints of bay and ginger. Today, long pepper is an extremely rare ingredient in European and American cuisines. It’s mostly found in Indian, North African, Malaysian, and Indonesian cuisines.
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Jun 7 2011

star anise

SPICE

Star anise is much much more then the “licorice” label its been given. It has a more sensual aromatic smoky sweet aroma that is penetrating when used in sweet infusions and is also a powerful flavor booster in savory applications. Its strengths are many and its weaknesses are few. If used correctly, it can be a real trick up the sleeve and a true friend in a pinch. I find I am using star anise more and more for cooking meat, especially with long braises of tougher cuts. I even use it with wood chips for its amazing coffee like smoke! Use it all the time, and treat it like gold!
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May 13 2011

prik khi nu

SPICE

For Thai food, it’s fair to say, “No chilies, no curries!” And among the many kinds of peppers, hot and not so hot, we have in Thailand, the smallest and most fiery is Prik Khi Nu, a term Thais use for someone who is small but powerful, like a kick boxer. It seems that many non Thai are not only sensitive to the heat of this tiny pepper, but even its name, because its usually translated as “Birds Eye Chili” or “Bird Chili”, when the literal translation should be (excuse me) “Mouse Shit Chili”!
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