Fahad Inc. Dishes (Spices & Herbs for Taste)

Curcum (turmeric) is an essintial part in every Arabic curry in the UAE

    The following are typical spices, herbs and other ingredients found in Arabic cooking, and other uses:

    Mye-ward wa mye-al-zahr ~ Rose Water & Orange Blossom Water

    These can be used together or separately, depending on the individual. Usually found in puddings, salads, pastries and in coffee, the essences are distilled from the petals of the flowers, a process developed by the Arabs. The flower water on sale today is usually a dilution of this product. Rosewater is one of the earliest distilled products known to man and its manufacture has been an important industry in the Middle East for over 1200 years.

    Burghul ~ Cracked Wheat

    This is an ingredient found in the Lebanesedish Tabbouleh and is also used instead of rice. The cracked wheat is first hulled, then parboiled, a process which makes the grain easier to cook and gives it a less pronounced flavour and a lighter texture.

    Sanobar ~ Pine Nut

    Pine nuts actually do come from the beautiful cones of the pine tree. They are contained inside the small, hard torpedo shaped shells and are covered with a sooty dust. Mostly used in Mediterranean dishes, they are also popular in some rice dishes here in the UAE.

    Ka-moun ~ Cumin

    The scent of the cumin is hard to define ~ powerful, warm and sweet, yet slightly oily. It gives fish a rich flavour and adds depth to other dishes. It needs to be roasted slightly before grinding and is one of the main ingredients for Bezar, the common Arabian mixed spice.

    Zan-ja-beel ~ Ginger

    The romantic spice is automatically associated with the east and is used widely throughout the Middle East. Weather ground or fresh, it gives meat and chicken dishes a tangy flavour. It is specially enjoyed by Arabs during the winter months and is served, boiled with milk in most homes as a late afternoon/evening drink to protect against cold.

    Mis-mar ~ Cloves

    This is the popular spice for curries and rice throughout the Middle East amd it adds a special flavour to gah-wa (Gulf coffee) when it can be used whole or ground. The best cloves are large, dark and plump and not easy to break.

    Bag-doonis ~ Parsley

    Parsley is the most serviceable of herbs and one which you can always buy fresh. Flat-leafed or curled, it gives a good flavour to most salads and has a beautiful decorative effect.

    Fil-fil aswad ~ Black Peppercorns

    These are the dried, shrivelled berries of the pepper vine ~ piper nigrum ~ and they are picked before turning fully ripe, then dried in the sun when they blacken within a day or two. Very important when making local mixed spices for Gulf food.

    Fil-fil ahmar ~ Chilli Powder

    This comes from the dried cayenne chilli pepper and is used very moderately in Arabic cuisine, mainly curry-type dishes or while blending bezar. It needs to be slightly roasted to get the maximum flavour.

    Zaffran ~ Saffron

    known as the most expensive spice in the world, each reddish-gold shred is a crocus stigma. The saffron crocus has only three stigmas which are hand-gathered and dried. The best saffron comes from Spaina and Iran. Very little is needed when preparing a recipe and it is a must for colouring and flavouring rice in the Arab world. In the gulf it is also an important flavouring agent for gah-wa, breads and custard.

    Jil-ja-lan ~ Ground Coriander

    The round, brittle and easily crushed seeds are the basis of every curry powder throughout the Gulf as well as India. They have a warm, faintly orangy fragrance which is much enhanced if they are parched by gently frying them in a pan before grinding them into a powder. A must for bezar and curries.

    Jil-je-lan ~ Fresh Coriander

    The soft, floppy green leaves of cariander look like parsley with a lacy leaf. The leaves don't smell strong until they are bruised or chopped finely. Cariander gives an essential flavour to Arabic dishes (hot & cold) and it is also used as a decoration. To achieve the maximum flavour from cariander, pound a bunch of cariander with garlic and ginger and a little salt. This mixture can be stored in the fridge for a week.

    Cur-cum ~ Turmeric

    This spice comes from the ginger family and is native to southern Asia where it has been cultivated since ancient times in China and Indonisia. It is also cultivated today in India, Jamica, Haiti and Peru. The plant grows to around three feet high and has large bright green and yellow flowers. Once the roots have been cleaned and oven dried, they are ground into a peppery flavoured orange-yellow powder. An essintial part of every Arabic curry dish in the UAE.

    Hal ~ Cardamom

    This is the second most expensive spice in the Gulf. The best cardamom pods are the size of peas, pale brown or greenish in colour. When the pods are opened, the tiny seeds inside should be dark, shiny and very aromatic. The flavour of cardamom is essintial in both Gulf and India curries.
    It has a warm, oily but sharp taste and an anaesthetic effect on the tongue. Sometimes the whole pod is used, but usually the seeds are taken out and freshly ground with other spices. Gah-wa is richly flavoured with cardamom as are sweet dishes, including cakes and custard.

    Sago ~ Tapioca

    The starch from the stem of the Asian sago palm is very fine and used as the basic thickener for custards, both milk and water based. Particularly popular during Ramadan.

    Peshew or Cooz

    A gelatine like substance sold in a form which resembles cellophane noodles, peshew originated from a type of seaweed. Very popular in the Far East and Asia for making custards, it has been used widley in the UAE for centuries. Its ability to enable custards to 'set' without refrigiration is attributed to its popularity. Today its popularity remains, although the custards are, naturally, chilled and eaten cold; particular favourite during Ramadan.

    Sa-noud ~ Fennel

    This herb is grown for its small, fragrant fruits (fennel seeds) and used as a seasoning. The large leaves of the fennel are eaten as a vegetable while the oil, extracted from its stem, is used in making candies and perfume. The plant is native to southern Europe and is widely cultivated in temprate and subtropical areas. Widely used in the UAE, it will be found in breads, mixed with ghee, an ingredient in bezar and in a powder form, used in cartain fish dishes.

    Jer-fah ~ Cinnamon

    This comes from the inner bark of trees which belong to the many species of genus cinnamon. Cassia or Chinese cinnamon, native to China but cultivated in India, are the two most common in the UAE. Wild cinnamon trees reach a high of 30 feet, but the cultivated species is kept pruned to shrub height. In turn it produces many slender shoots which are cut and stripped of their bark. The inner bark is the aromatic part and this is separated and dried. During the drying process, it curls up to form rolled quills or sticks. The broken quills are used for ground cinnamon.

    From the book "The Complete United Arab Emirates Cookbook"
    by Celia Ann Brock- Al Ansari
    Copyright © 1994 by Celia Ann Brock-Al Ansari

    Copyright © 1997 by Fahad Inc.
    Maintained by: Fahad Al Mahmood