Star Anise, the beautiful spice
Native to China and Northern Vietnam, star anise is a spice that has both health benefits and culinary applications. This is a unique spice and identified by its seven or eight-pointed pod that is found in the shape of a star. This pod is picked before it has ripened and then sun-dried giving the pod a rich brown color. The sun-dried pod is then utilized in various ways throughout the world.
Star anise is a staple of many Chinese dishes such as teas or roasted duck, and in Western cultures, it is used for baking. Cakes and cookies may find star anise amongst their ingredients list. In soups, such as the Vietnamese pho, the whole pod is utilized to enhance flavor. In baked goods, the pod is ground down and used like traditional spices. The flavor profile is similar to that of anise as they both contain the essential oil, anethole. Anethole gives a hint of licorice or cinnamon depending on how your pallet is because it is warm, spicy, and woody.
Health Benefits of Star Anise
The health benefits of star anise come from more than just the essential oil compound. Other compounds found within star anise are:
• Gallic acid
• Shikimic acid
Star anise’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-microbial properties may come from the combination of these compounds found within it. There have been some animal research testing that suggests the antioxidant component may contain anti-cancer properties. The types of properties that could potentially reduce tumor sizes.
Tamiflu has the main ingredient of shikimic acid, one of the compounds found within star anise. Since shikimic acid for some pharmaceutical products to treat influenza, star anise is the primary source utilized by pharmaceutical producers. The essential oil, anethole, has been shown by some research to treat viral infections like herpes simplex type.
In addition to its antiviral benefits, star anise also shows potential with antibacterial benefits. Some research has shown that it may help with preventing urinary tract infections. Other research has shown that an extract has effectiveness against some drug-resistant pathogenic bacterial. Finally, a study has shown that an extract can help prevent the growth of E. Coli.
Regardless if in the kitchen, home remedies, or in pharmaceutical production, star anise has a place amongst vast categories. Keeping this in mind, star anise should become a staple in the spice rack for any level of the culinary arts. The potential health benefits of what is in one’s spice rack can be a tasteful fight against ailments.
Order our Star Anise here.
Mole and its Ingredients
What is mole?
The term mole originates from the word mōlli of the Nahuatl (or Uto-Aztecan) language, which translated means “sauce”. The traditional ingredients in mole is an elaborate and sophisticated layering of flavors, extracted through a timely process from a variety of dried chilies, seasonings, spices, and fruits. Since the recording of the first written recipe in 1810, mole has been named the national dish of Mexico, and historically has been reserved for special occasions or holidays. Over the years the whole world has come to embrace mole, so much so that as of today there are more than 300 different moles with varying colors such as yellow, red, green, and even black.
Seven main variations of mole:
- Mole Amarillo: With a soft and slightly spicy flavor, the main ingredient is the yellow chilhuacle (a regional chile of Oaxaca, Mexico), thought to be one of the rarest chilies in the world.
- Mole Verde: Beloved in central Mexico, a vital element in the preparation of this mole is established by the grinding of tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, serrano, and hoja santa chilies.
- Mole Coloradito: Slightly sweeter than red mole, the combination of sesame, oregano, tomato, garlic, cinnamon, chile ancho, and chocolate, provide it with an extraordinary brick-red color.
- Mole Manchamanteles: The blending of ingredients such as white sweet potato, plantain, yellow sweet potato, and plum, provide this mole with a fruitier flavor.
- Mole Negro: Described to have a smokey flavor, the inclusion of a larger amount of chocolate in the preparation of this mole provides a darker color than others.
- Mole Almendrado: With a slightly sweet flavor and velvety texture, the inclusion of costly ingredients such as almonds, chile ancho, and chile guajillo, make this a historically popular dish with the upper class.
- Mole Poblano: One of the most popular moles in the US and Mexico, this mole has a soft flavor with a reddish touch to its predominantly brown color.
Common Ingredients of Mole Poblano:
- Dried Mulato Chilies
- Dried Pasilla Negro Chilies
- Dried Ancho Chilies
- Chipotle Chilies
- Plum Tomatoes
- Garlic Cloves
- Coriander Seeds
- Anise Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Corn Tortilla
- Bolillo Roll
- Ripe Plantain
- Raw Peanuts
- Blanched Almonds
- Mexican (or Dark) Chocolate
How can I use Mole?
Mole is commonly utilized in a variety of different ways, these include being served over rice, eggs, chicken, beef, or pork. It is also used as a smothering sauce for burritos, a base for taco fillings, and a topping for enchiladas which are then referred to as enmoladas.
For the best and freshest flavors, check out our mole.
Secrets behind Thai Green Curry
Thai green curry is a popular Thai dish. Its popularity may be due to both its fresh green look and its sweet vs spicy sour taste. Its aroma and slightly spicy taste also make it an appealing oriental culinary delight.
But what is the secret behind its appeal that makes this Thai curry a delight to the palate? The secrets are in the ingredients and the cooking. It is a delicate process of combining and balancing opposite flavors like sweet vs spicy.
Three steps to a good Thai green curry.
First, get the thick curry paste.
You can make this paste or buy it ready-made from an oriental shop. Making your curry paste might not be the best approach. The many ingredients might be hard to get and expensive. Prep time and getting the right consistency and taste might be difficult.
Buying a jar of ready-made paste is the better option. It has all the ingredients in the right proportions and consistency.
Next, get the cooking ingredients for the curry.
- packet of kaffir
- lime leaves.
- lemongrass shoots,
- jar of tamarind paste,
- palm or white sugar,
- green chilies,
- coconut milk,
- desiccated coconut
- Thai fish sauce,
- basil leaves,
- diced chicken breast or vegetables.
With ingredients at hand use the thick ready-made paste to make the perfect sauce. It is important to focus on balancing the sweet vs spicy ingredients you add.
Third, make your curry:
1. In a wok, start by frying these ingredients together: onion, garlic, chopped lemongrass shoots, galangal, lime leaves, green chilies, and basil leaves. Fry for three minutes.
2. Add two tablespoons of curry paste, fish sauce, and tamarind paste. Fry for three to four minutes.
3. Add diced chicken breast or vegetables and stir for two minutes.
4. Add coconut milk and water if too thick, then stir until it begins to boil then leave to simmer.
5. Blend coriander leaves and desiccated coconut into a paste.
6. Add sugar and lime juice, basil leaves. Stir and add coriander paste and stir. After 30 seconds the curry will turn green.
You have unlocked the Thai green curry secret. Turn off flame and serve with rice.
To make this easier, just use our Thai Green Curry spice
For more ideas using our fresh spices, check out our blog.
Have you Tried Berbere?
Berbere is an Ethiopian spice blend you should try!
This spice blend is a tradition originating from Ethiopia. The name “berbere” comes from the Berber people associated with the region in Northern Africa where Ethiopia resides. Berbere serves as the backbone of Ethiopian cooking and may be found in nearly every kitchen there. This classic spice is also used in the national dish of Ethiopia called “Doro wat,” a type of stew using chicken, and “Siga wat” using beef as the primary ingredient.
Berbere has a very spicy profile with a wholesome blend of spices herbs, and so on. One unique thing about this spice is that no two mixes are the same. That’s right, the flavor and consistency of Berbere can vary widely depending on where in Ethiopia you are and which family is cooking. That’s largely due in part because different regions have more restricted access and must use alternative ingredients while others may be less restricted.
Berbere is also used to add flavor to a wide variety of foods from meat, to vegetables and even legumes. This complex spice typically denotes a spicy, sweet, and citrus profile, which leads to a highly unique and interesting flavor combination. Many households also combine the spice with red wine and oil, which produces a paste known as “awaze.” This paste is then served as ketchup like a condiment, which is used to dip other foods into.
What is berbere?
With the background out of the way, you’re probably wondering, what is berbere? Berbere is made from a wide range of ingredients ranging from over a dozen herbs, spices, and blends. Most commonly, however, the blend consists of chili peppers, fenugreek, ginger, allspice, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and lesser-known varieties like long pepper and ajwain. All of this complexity leads to a flavor that is spicy yet tolerable. The heat of this spice is somewhat evened out by the sweetness of the cinnamon and citrusy flavors. So, you can expect a spicy, sweet, and earthy taste overall.
Berbere is most commonly cooked into sauteed onions at the start of the cooking process. This helps release the flavor profile into the onions. However, you can also put dashes of this spice over the meat like fish or even fresh fruit. If you opt to make the awaze, then it can be used as a dipping sauce as well. Dig in and enjoy!
See our blend here.
In Indian culture, it is a rare occurrence not to use garam masala when preparing dishes. It can be used with other seasonings or just alone. In the Northern part of India this mixture of seasonings is usually powdery. In contrast, in the Southern India it is made into a paste using water, coconut milk, or vinegar.
The seasoning comes from a blend of ground spices prevalent in Indian cooking, from soups to lentil dishes. The terms garam and masala means “hot” and “spices” respectively. So the name of this Indian blend of spices translates loosely to “warming spices.” As the translation suggests, this blend of spices serves the purpose of heating or warming the body and boosting the rate of metabolism.
Varieties of the Ingredients in the Spice
Before cooking with this spice, understand that its recipe tends to vary. The ingredients used for blending differ from one region to another because of individual taste and preference of a chef.
In the northern Indian region this ground spices blend usually only employs the use of black pepper as the hot element and mostly puts more effort into having sweet, aromatic spices. Cook with this northern blend if you want the spicing to be more mild.
In Southern India, the spice is much hotter because they use red chilies as part of the ingredients.
Cooking with this spice has been around for generations and its origin is thought to be in Northern India. Northern India has colder seasons so it is understandable why the use of warming spices is more widespread there. At present, the use of the seasonings blend is spread throughout India.
What is used to make the blend of garam masala?
Often the ground spices mixture is comprised of:
• Black pepper
Other ingredients that may also be used for the different varieties or recipes of the seasoning blend include dried red chilies, fenugreek, turmeric, tamarind, mustard seeds, etc.
To sum it up
When a person uses garam masala, it helps enhance the flavors of dishes and reduces the amount of other seasonings used. Adding it to your vegetables, chicken, rice, baked potatoes, even as simple as in your mayonnaise to liven up a sandwich can do wonders for you. The different ingredients used in the spice come with different health benefits including improving digestion and metabolism and increasing body temperature. Use this spice blend today to realize the many benefits.
Here is a link to buy our blend.
What are the Health Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric, in addition to being a popular spice used in many cuisines around the world, is also a staple ingredient in many supplements, as it has been scientifically proven to help with a multitude of ailments. Turmeric is derived from a chemical, Curcumin, which is a fat-soluble chemical that you can take as a daily vitamin. Turmeric is believed to help ward off dementia, relieve heart problems, and reduce general inflammation in the body. Keep reading to know the health benefits associated with turmeric and what it actually is.
How Do People Usually Ingest It?
Turmeric as a spice can be added to give flavor and an orange tinge to many savory dishes, including omelets or pasta dishes. It may also be steeped in hot water to produce a soothing, antioxidant-rich tea-like drink. The root chemical, Curcumin may be purchased at a regular supplement store, or even at some drug stores. You can take the recommended dosage (a capsule or two) with a full meal, as this chemical is fat-soluble, so just taking it with water will not do much for you.
Where is Turmeric Usually Found?
Those who love their food to be brightly colored and packing a ton of flavor probably know that turmeric is a spice that originated in India. It is a staple of the cuisine in that part of the world, and wild turmeric grows on plantations along the mainland of India and several Indian Ocean islands. It was in Indian medicine that turmeric made its emergence and people began to really learn what it is and its great health benefits. They saw that tea made from steeping the spice resulted in greater health and vitality.
With an Indian restaurant in just about every community, you have every reason to ask “What is turmeric?” Once you realize how it can be used to add color, flavor and a few health benefits to every meal, you will be sure to keep it in your kitchen. Add turmeric to your favorite dishes or brew some tea and see how this antioxidant and anti-inflammatory spice can help you.
See our Turmeric here.
The Mango Mukwas Yogurt Sauce is fragrant, sweet Indian yogurt dip or raita. Traditionally, raitas are used as a mild sauce or side dish to mellow down spicy dishes, and to improve digestion. “Mukwas” is the traditional after-dinner breath-freshening mix, and makes a special addition to this raita.