Spices, Herbs and Blends
Spices and some herbs are used to flavour and sometimes colour our dishes, as well as impart into them great healthy qualities.
The most commonly used spices in the European and American cooking are:
Black and white pepper, clove, nutmeg, caraway, cinnamon, paprika, juniper, allspice, cumin, poppy, garlic, vanilla, ground ginger, cayenne pepper, thyme, bay leaves, oregano, basil, celery, tarragon, fennel, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, sage and saffron.
A famous blend in USA is the Cajun (& Creole) seasoning mix which is made of onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, ground black or white pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika and salt.
The spices mostly used on the Indian subcontinent are:
Chili pepper, cumin, curry leaves, cinnamon, turmeric (see my post on this spice), cardamom, clove, asafoetida (also known as the smelly root spice), nutmeg & mace (both from the same fruit), nigella, pepper (green, black & white), tamarind, ginger, garlic, fenugreek, green coriander, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and allspice.
Garam masala is a blend of ground and toasted spices, often used in dishes on the Indian subcontinent, mainly in curries. The spices used for this blend differ according to the region but it will mainly include coriander, cumin, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Spices mostly used in China and Southeast Asia are:
Ginger, garlic, cassia (cinnamon), Szechuan pepper, coriander seeds, chili, star anise, fennel seeds, cumin, clove, galangal, lemongrass, turmeric, Thai basil, tamarind, liquorice root, celery seeds, cardamom, cayenne pepper, shrimp paste
The Chinese 5 ground spices blend are: cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns.
In Japan, the spices mostly used are:
sansho pepper, wasabi, Ichimi togarashi (red pepper flakes), roasted orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, hemp seeds, seaweed and ra-yu (oil infused and seasoned with garlic, chili and herbs).
The Japanese also use a blend of 7 ground spices, called Shichimi, which are: sansho pepper, roasted orange peel, sesame and hemp seeds, ginger, seaweed and Ishimi.
Another typically Japanese seasoning is Gomasio, a mixture of salt and roasted sesame seeds.
The most common spices used in the Levant (countries : Lebanon, Syria, Palestine…), which covers a large area of the Eastern Mediterranean region, are:
Allspice (also known in Arabic as the sweet pepper), cinnamon, black and white pepper, cumin, coriander seeds, caraway, turmeric, paprika, nutmeg, cloves, fenugreek, dried mint, dried thyme & oregano, dried mint, sesame paste, sesame seeds, cardamom, pomegranate molasses, rose petals & rose water, orange blossom water and za’atar (a mix of mainly wild oregano, sumac, sesame seeds…).
The most known spice blend in the Levant countries is the Shawarma (see recipe) blend made of ground cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, cloves, Cayenne pepper, black pepper, cinnamon and garlic powder.
In the rest of the Middle East region, The most used spices are:
allspice, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander,cumin, nutmeg and dried chili. These spices are also used in the blend called Baharat, frequently used.
Another known blend is Dukkah, mainly used in Egypt, which consists of roasted and ground hazelnuts, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, mint, black pepper and sea salt. It is usually used with vegetables or mixed with virgin olive oil and served with bread.
In Iran, the most used blend of spices is:
Advieh, which consists of a mix of cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, cumin, black pepper and rose petals. It is similar to the Garam Masala blend.
In North Africa, the spices mostly used are:
Ground ginger, turmeric, paprika, cumin, black pepper, coriander, Cayenne, cinnamon, powdered saffron, nigella seeds, anise seeds, celery seeds, mace, nutmeg, cardamom and garlic powder.
The most famous blend in Morocco, Ras El Hanout, is a mix of almost all of the aforementioned spices.
Another blend, mostly used in Tunisia is the Harissa paste made from red pepper, coriander, cumin, caraway, garlic, onion, hot chilies and tomato paste.
In West Africa, the most common spices are :
Grains of paradise also known as ossame, alligator pepper or Guinea pepper, and Selim pepper also known as African pepper. These 2 spices are peppery and aromatic.
There may be other spices, herbs and blends around the world but I think the ones I mentioned will be enough to give your cooking diversity and the right tastes of the dishes you have discovered in your travels.