Sumac

September Spice News

We’re back from our short summer spice sourcing trip. This year our travels took us to the Middle-East. On our journey we picked up a few interesting spices, namely Sumac Ajwain Seeds (Carom Seed), Black Caraway Seeds (also known as Nigella), and finally asafoetida.

So what will September Bring?

Our Essential Indian Spice Collection

With our new additions we are going to be putting together what we will dub our “Essential Indian Spice Collection”. Does this spice collection include every single spice you will ever need when cooking Indian food? No, no even close. But our Essential Indian Spice Collection it will put you on a solid footing as you embark on your next culinary experiment. Our collection will include the very basics.

  • Coriander Seeds
  • Cumin Seeds
  • Turmeric Powder or dried turmeric root
  • Fenugreek
  • Fennel Seeds
  • Sanaam Chillies (medium heat)
  • A Garam Masala mixture containing whole spices to be freshly ground at home.

All this will come in a fancy box making it the perfect gift for an upcoming holiday which shall not be mentioned until after Thanksgiving. Look for this set to go on sale by mid-September.

Asafoetida

aseofetida

aseofetida

I wrote a little about this new addition in mid-August. Let just say it has arrived in our warehouse and the odor is anything but pleasant. Why are we stocking such a rank smelling spice? Because people who love both super authentic Indian and vegetarian cuisine have been asking for it, and as they say the customer is always right. We’ve decided the best way to package Asafoetida, otherwise known as the devil’s dung, will be in our re-sealable stand-up pouches. This allows for the most ideal seal and represents the best way to keep this malodourous spice contained. Asafoetida will be available for purchase by next week.

Sumac  

Sumac

Sumac

Sumac really defined our Middle-Eastern travels. This spice is truly something special. If a dish ever needs a hint of acidity, look no further than this beautiful dark red spice. Sumac affords a wonderful sweet and sour flavour, with notes of bitterness interlaced with subtle fruity hints. Sumac will do wonders for grilled meats, chicken or shrimp, cooked vegetables, dips, grains, and of course Lebanese Fattoush Salad.

This tart spice cuts through even the richest of meats like a hot knife through butter, leaving you with a beautifully balanced mouthful. Why stop at rich meats? Sumac will blow any dairy lovers mind. Paired with strong pungent cheeses or a subtle Labne (Lebanese Yogurt), Sumac spice will make new even the most familiar flavours.

Look for this spice to go on sale mid-September.   

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Asafoetida Coming in September

Ferula Plant

Ferula Plant.
Picture taken by Jörg Hempel.

We’ve just made an order for one of the most obscure but essential Indian spices out there. We are talking about Asafoetida Powder. Pronounced “Asa’fo’teeda”, this spice is harvested from the roots and stems of the genus ferula plant, pictured to your right. The plants roots are slashed causing it to produce a pungent resin. Once dried, the hardened resin is scraped off and crushed into powder. Note that commercial Asafoetida is not 100% pure. It is sometimes compounded with rice flower, but most commonly wheat flower, meaning its not gluten free (sorry). Now we’ve searched far and wide for the rice flower version, but for we could only get our hands on reliable supply of the latter (again sorry).

Asafoetida is not very impressive looking. Unlike the myriad of vibrantly coloured spices native to Indian cuisine, Asafeotida is bland and rather boring looking.

aseofetida

Aseofetida.

However what this spice lacks in looks, it makes up in flavour and stench. Did I say stench? You bet. This stuff, in its raw form stinks. Rich in sulphurous compounds Asafoetida is commonly referred to as stinking gum or devil’s dung. That’s right, we will be carrying a product that smells of the devil’s bowel. Luckily Asafoetida’s pungency mellows with heat. Ultimately it produces a pleasant oniony-garlic flavour.

Here is a nice little video to fill you in on this stinky little spice.

Asafoetida is considered a must have spice compound in many vegetarian dishes especially daals, lentil based dishes. A small pinch of this stuff goes a long way. Here is a great daal recipe to get you started.

As far as the medicinal properties of Asafoetida are concerned, according to WebMd.com it is used to treat many ailments such as:  

  • Breathing problems including ongoing (chronic) bronchitis,H1N1 “swine” flu, and asthma.
  • Digestion problems including intestinal gas, upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and irritable colon.
  • Treatment of “whooping cough” (pertussis), croup, and hoarse throat.
  • Hysteria, insanity, convulsions, and as a nerve stimulant for ongoing mental and physical fatigue with depression (neurasthenia).
  • Women sometimes use asafoetida to restart their menstrual periods after menstruation has stopped for some reason.
  • Asafoetida is sometimes applied directly to the skin for corns and calluses.

So there you have it. If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of Indian cuisine or need to restart your menstrual cycle, Asafeotida is an absolute must.