Berbere is a staple spice blend in Ethiopian cuisine. Made up of a number of spices that are roasted and ground, the primary components seem to be fenugreek seeds, cayenne pepper and paprika. The ratio of cayenne to paprika control just how hot the berbere becomes.
Sometimes written as ber-beri (which gives you an idea of how to pronounce it, almost like ‘Burberry’), it imparts a warm red colour to any dish that uses it as the primary seasoning.
Berbere is also used to make a strongly flavoured condiment, called Awaze. A mix of berbere, garlic and wine, it is a deep, dark, spicy paste that can be used for dipping. This condiment is one of my favourite additions to my Ethiopian platter, adding an extra kick in combination with the injera (bread) and stews.
Watch for the Friday post for details of my attempt at making an Ethiopian platter! Sooo good!
Today’s featured item from the spice drawer is a Japanese spice blend that may or may not be called ‘Nanami Togarashi’. This name doesn’t appear anywhere on this bottle, and similar blends from other brands have different names (another one I saw was called ‘Shichimi Togarashi‘, seems to have the same ingredients. Hm. Wait – Google to the rescue here.) Nanami Togarashi is generally made up of chili pepper, orange peel, sesame seeds, japanese pepper (sansho – tastes almost lemon balmy), seaweed, etc.
This stuff is amazing, and I’m totally addicted to it.
In Japanese restaurants, they usually offer this to sprinkle on your soup. Once I discovered it, I started to put it on everything even remotely Japanese inspired. My favourite use is on stir fried udon noodles. As it is primarily made of chili pepper, it does add a bit of heat, so be careful when adding it to dishes. The inclusion of citrus and the almost citrusy tasting Sansho pepper give it a nice tang.
Nanami Togarashi isn’t available in most grocery stores, and can commonly be found in Japanese supermarkets and some pan-Asian supermarkets. I used to only be able to find the tiny bottles of it, and had even asked one of the grocers about whether I could order bigger bottles. At the time, it seemed that you couldn’t get it in any other size. On my most recent trip to Sanko, my favourite Japanese grocery store here in Toronto, I was pleased* to find not only a larger bottle, but also a large bag of Nanami Togarashi. I bought one of each.
Next time you see one of these cute little red bottles, give it a try!
*pleased = almost peed myself, I was so happy about the silly spices
I’ve already admitted that I’m not a good cook, but I think I might be good at adding herbs and spices.
I have more spices than any rational person should have, but I do use them! I’ve been trying to grow herbs for years – only being able to successfully grow a basil plant on my balcony after I moved to a new home this year (lack of sunlight = weinerbasil). My recent move also brought me some excitement in the form of a “spice drawer”.
In my old apartment, my spices were strewn all willy-nilly around the kitchen. I had two revolving spice racks, a narrow shelf on top of the stove, a masala tin, and other little pockets of spice. During the move, we were trying to figure out what to put in all of the drawers when my mom suggested I have a spice drawer. My jaw dropped, my eyes lit up and a wee tear trickled down my face… ok, that last one was made up. You get the picture – I was ecstatic. I hadn’t thought of that possibility, and now I could have all of my spices at my fingertips.
I still kept my masala tin – that thing kicks butt, and is a sign of a true spice fanatic.
I’ll be featuring different spices from my collection every once in a while, and I’d love some feedback about new things to try!