Middle Eastern Spices

Written by Sarah Bednar
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Middle Eastern spices are as varied as the food they flavor. They are an indispensable part of Arab cooking, and are largely responsible for the unique quality of Middle Eastern cuisine. Arab cooks use spice differently than Westerners in that they add it to almost anything, even desserts and drinks. Spices give a pungent aroma and tangy flavor to Arabic dishes.

Middle Eastern Spices Add Unique Flavor

Arabic spices are for the most part familiar to Westerners under different names. Anise is yansoon, coriander is kizbra, fennel is shamra and so forth. These spices can make a dish fiery hot or delicately tangy, depending upon the blend. Baharat, for example, is a mixture of hot spices such as pepper, chile and paprika combined with sweet aromatics clove, cinnamon and nutmeg. It flavors mutton, among other things.

Zattar is another unique blend that has contrasting flavors. Thyme, marjoram, cashew and salt make up this Arabic spice. Cardamom is one of the most widely used of the Middle Eastern spices, and will be found in everything from Turkish coffee to yogurt and stews. It is a member of the ginger family and deliciously aromatic. Arab dishes utilize dozens of spice mixtures that bring out the flavors of the foods they complement.

An Arabic grocery will have many of the most popular Middle Eastern spices. No Arabic meal would be complete without them. Not only do they make food taste better, but they have delicious flavors all their own. The novice to Arab cooking will soon find that they become a favorite part of everyday meal prep, as they are versatile and complimentary to most foods.

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