People have blended spices together to form mixes for thousands of years. Some spice blends have become ubiquitous in national cuisine and help to form the unique flavor profile of geographically unique dishes. Here is a guide to four of the most distinctive spice blends from around the globe. Bear in mind that there are hundreds more to explore!
Za’atar is one of the most popular spice blends in the Middle East. The blend typically includes dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, sesame seeds, and sumac. The exact proportions of these ingredients can vary depending on the region and the preferences of the cook.
Za’atar is used in a variety of dishes, including meats, vegetables, and breads. It can be sprinkled over hummus or other dips, added to marinades for grilled meats, or used as a seasoning for roasted vegetables. Za’atar is also commonly used to flavor flatbreads, such as manakish, which are often served for breakfast or as a snack. In addition to its culinary uses, za’atar is believed to have several health benefits, including aiding digestion and boosting the immune system.
Mesquite seasoning blends, such as those sold by Olam Spices, originated in Mexico. The key ingredient in these seasoning mixes comes from the mesquite tree, which lends the spice blend an incredible woody, smoky flavor. Mesquite seasoning is typically used in barbecuing in the American Southwest. The smoky flavor it imparts suits barbecued food wonderfully.
Chinese Five Spice
Chinese five spice in an incredibly ancient blend that is used in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Polynesian cooking regularly. It was – according to some food historians – formulated all the way back in the 4th century BC for use as a medicine. The rich, deep flavor of Chinese five spice is the result of a combination of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, and fennel. It can be used to add depth of flavor to almost all Asian dishes. In Taiwan (otherwise known as the Republic of China), five-spice squid is a favorite street food. Squid is marinaded in a five-spice infused blend before being fried.
Garam Masala is a spice blend that is commonly used in Indian cuisine. It is typically made from a combination of spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cloves, and black pepper. The exact proportions of these spices can vary depending on the region and the preferences of the cook. Garam Masala is used to add flavor and complexity to a variety of dishes, including curries, stews, and soups. It is often added at the end of the cooking process to preserve the flavors of the individual spices.
To make Garam Masala, the spices are typically toasted in a dry pan to release their essential oils and deepen their flavors. They are then ground together to create a fine powder. Some recipes call for the spices to be ground individually and then combined, while others call for the whole spices to be ground together.