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central Asia

  • The Royalty of Saffron

    Spanning an illustrious history of over 3000 years, the crimson hued saffron was once the choice of spice for kings, pharaohs and emperors. But these royal leaders were not planning to have a meal with saffron they were more interested in its alleged aphrodisiacal qualities, and because of that, they valued it more than gold.

    In today's culture, saffron is still a highly prized commodity for its medicinal properties and for its culinary applications. This beautiful spice comes from the crocus flower that produces tiny thread-like slivers called stigmas and are considered one of the most expensive spices in the world. It can command from $1,500 to $2,000 per pound. But that is for someone who is buying saffron for commercial purposes. For us home-chefs, you can buy much smaller quantities of saffron threads, and the good thing is, you only need to use a few threads at a time when cooking your specific dish. Continue reading

  • Asafoetida there is no substitute!

    There is a spice, a very strange and uncommon spice that is unfamiliar to most western palates, but not to central Asian folks. In fact this particular spice has been around for ages, and is widely used in Indian cuisine. I am referring to asafoetida, also known as Hing, which is a potent resin with a powerful aroma, something akin to musty, earthy smells. Or in some cases it has been deemed to have an odor of sweat. But don't let the odor fool you, once a tiny pinch of the resin is sauteed in hot oil or ghee (clarified butter) the spice dissolves and emits a smell reminiscent of onions and garlic. The infused oil is used to add depth and complexity to a variety of savory dishes such as rice, vegetables and legumes ordal. It can also be mixed with salt and eaten with raw salads. For those vegetarians who shun garlic and onion, asafoetida is a great replacement.
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