International Spice Blends – Flavour & More
The ideal way to experiment with new cuisines is to understand its ingredients.It is evident through Indian cuisines; spices play a significant role in infusing taste and making each dish unique.Many of us try international cuisines in different restaurants and wonder why the food tastes different from when we tried it during our travels. As much as restaurants try to bring the authentic taste to your plate, ingredients and their origins make quite a bit of difference to the overall flavor.
If you are foodie or a cooking enthusiast who likes to experiment, a great way to create international dishes at home is to use authentic spices from that cuisine. As spices form the foundation for genuine taste and are easily available, using them is an assured way of recreating the culinary magic. Just as Indian cuisines rely heavily on spices and spice blends, there are many international cuisines that use spice blends to add flavor to food.
Spice blends are an extremely easy and quick way to make delicious restaurant-like food at home. They not only add taste, but these spiceseven have some interesting health benefits.
Let’s take a look at some famous international spice blends and the wonders they add to the native cuisines.
Five Spice Powder
Five Spice Powder is used widely in the Chinese cuisine. While, many believe that the name of this spice blend is derived from the number of ingredients used in it, another theory suggest that it comes from traditional Chinese beliefs. Chinese medicine suggests that five elements i.e. Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water make up different parts of the human body and imbalance in these elements can lead to disease. Five spice powder is believed to be one of the many herbs and spices that are used to create a balance in the body.
Usually five spice contains - Szechuan (Sichuan) peppercorns, ground cloves, fennel seeds, cinnamon or cassia, and star anise. Along with these ingredients, many others are often added as per preference. It has a strong and bold flavour profile and should be used sparingly while cooking.
Its main ingredients include cinnamon which has anti-diabetic, antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. While Szechuan pepper contains antioxidants and minerals. Star anise, which is also a popular spice in India, can help strengthen the immune system. Fennel seeds and cloves also add antioxidants to this spice blend. Cloves also help improve digestive health.
This Middle Eastern spice blend is used as spice while cooking, as a dry rub for meat dishes, salad dressing and as a finishing spice used to garnish dips such as hummus. It also used to create dips for flat breads. It is so flavourful that just a pinch of this spice blend can transform your dish into something special. Traditionally, Za’atar Spice contains thyme, ground sumac, salt, and sesame seeds. Homes in theMiddle Eastadd their own favourite spices to this spice blend, some of the popular ones being Marjoram and Greek or Turkish oregano.
The key component of Za’atar Spice is sumac. It is a lemony spice native to this part of the world. It is bright red in colour and resembles berries. It is rich in gallic acid which may contribute to its anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Sumac also contains quercetin which is an anti-inflammatory agent. Thyme and oregano also have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Along with adding a nutty taste to the spice blend, sesame seeds add calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese and copper to it.
Herbes de Provence
If you are a fan of French cuisine, this spice blend is a must in your pantry. Originating in the Provence region in the south of France, Herbes de Provence is herb mixture which is used to flavor roasted meat and vegetables, grilled fish, soups, salads and stews. Like most Indian spice blends, this one doesn’t have a set recipe either, each chef tweaks the ratio of basic ingredients to suit their preferences. It contains dry spices such as bay leaf, thyme, fennel, rosemary, chervil, oregano, summer savoury, tarragon, mint, and marjoram. Some versions outside of France also contain lavender as it is demonstrative of the Provence region. This spice blend also pairs well with Mediterranean dishes.
Bayleaf, an important ingredient in Herbes de Provence, is known to have health benefits such as anti-bacterial properties, reducing inflammations and improving digestive health. While summer savoury is a herb from the mint family which helps with gastric disorders, Marjoram, which is commonly known as oregano, contains antioxidants and vitamins. The Mediterranean herb, rosemary, can help relieve musclepain, and improve the immune and circulatory systems.
Stock up on these spices to make international cuisines at home or just use them to create fusion dishes using Indian ingredients. Share your favorite recipes with us in the comments below.
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