The other day a friend of mine asked me what spices do we use on a regular basis. Of course there are many spices that we love to cook with, but one just jumped right out and that was "zhug". This fiery spice blend has its origins in Yemen, and is found in almost all Yemeni Jewish kitchens around the world. Shuli introduced me to the many uses of zhug and Ive been a big fan of it ever since.
The authentic Yemeni zhug paste is made from either red or green chilies, garlic, herbs and spices that are placed into a mortar and pestle and then ground into a paste - the old-fashion way. Just as salsa and chips is one of our favorite snack foods, so is the zhug paste when we blend it with fresh tomatoes to make a tangy sauce for dipping.
At home, we like to make our own fresh zhug paste that we add to soups and stews or we just simply use it as a condiment for spreading over flatbread drizzled with some olive oil. Our zhug dry blend also makes for an excellent dipping sauce just by drizzling some olive oil on a plate and then sprinkle a little zhug dry blend into the oil, mix it and then it is ready for dipping. But you must remember, even though zhug is an excellent way to touch up dips and sauces, it is spicy-hot, so use it sparingly.
For an authentic Yemeni meal, Shuli likes to make a huge pot of Yeminite soup (see recipe) mixed with hilbeh sauce, which is a mellow and herb type mixture made from fenugreek seeds that are soaked in water over-night. Once the seeds are swollen they are thoroughly drained of any excess water, and then whipped up until it forms a creamy, foamy-like emulsion that is known as hilbeh and then seasoned with zhug paste. I can see a lab technician examining the whole process as being much in the realm of gastronomical chemistry.
Whenever we like to experiment with new recipes and cooking techniques, we always consider ways to use our zhug spice blend as it can turn a simple meal into a unique culinary event. It takes a very little amount of zhug to add huge flavor to a dish; the end result is always something crazy delicious, exciting, aromatic, and eye-catching.
Perhaps we can tempt you to experiment with our zhug spice? If you love a little bit of hotness in your life, then follow our Seared Tuna & Tahini Zhug Mlange recipe -- we know you will love it!
Seared Tuna & Tahini Zhug Mlange- click on link