Egypt is famous for its spices that are used in home cooking and restaurants all across the country. Special combinations are a secret ingredient in many recipes, handed down from generation to generation. Spices are sold on the streets and in the souks and are a must-have on your shopping list.
Take a look at some of Egypt’s classic spices.
Turmeric is an aromatic, bright yellow spice with a bit of a kick and a slightly bitter taste. It is often used for seasoning poultry dishes and cream soups and it works well with beans, soy and lentils.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world – it comes from the saffron crocus, which must be harvested by hand, and each flower yields only a tiny bit of the spice. It gives a unique aroma and pleasant golden color to rice dishes, sauces, soups and cakes. Saffron is also known as an aphrodisiac.
Sesame is one of the most valuable oil plants because of its high nutritional value. In addition to adding a nutty flavor to dishes, it contains fiber, protein, vitamins and antioxidants. Sesame oil can help increase the platelet count in the blood, which helps with clotting.
Americans know fresh coriander leaves as cilantro. Egyptians use fresh coriander in salads for its lively, citrusy flavor. Coriander seed, dried and ground, has warmer citrusy notes and is ideal with meat (mutton, pork, venison) and for sauces and vegetable marinades.
Cumin’s strong, earthy flavor is well-known in Arabic cuisine. Sometimes it is used in whole seed form, but it is more common as a powder, added to meat and vegetables. It can also be mixed with cinnamon and saffron and added to stews. It is a common ingredient in Indian curry mixtures and in Mexican food.
Ginger has a sharp smell and a spicy, warming flavor. It is used in both sweet and savory applications: in fruit compotes, liqueurs, mulled wine, beer, gingerbread, pumpkin pie, pickles, and more. It is an essential component of curry and is added to many Asian vegetable dishes. It is known for aiding in digestion and can calm nausea.
Like saffron, cardamom is another very expensive spice. It has been used in medicine since ancient times and is considered an aphrodisiac. Cardamom can be used in sweet or savory dishes. It is added to meat, fish and poultry, and it complements coffee, tea and chocolate. It boosts metabolism and has antiseptic properties. Arabs have chewed cardamom seeds for centuries to freshen the breath.
The chilled tea made from hibiscus flowers is tart and refreshing. It can also be consumed hot. Hibiscus has many health benefits. It may fight off infections, is a valuable source of calcium, vitamin C and mineral salts, and may lower blood pressure and protect the heart.
Mint is used in a famous Bedouin tea served to tourists in Egypt. Although this tea is usually served with lots of sugar, the mint retains its cooling aroma and properties. According to the Bedouin, it is good for digestion and has other medicinal properties.
The health properties of black cumin, also known as nigella seeds, were appreciated by the ancient Egyptians – it was even found in King Tut’s tomb. It has been called the "gold of the pharaohs" as they thought it could cure everything except death. Black cumin adds a warm, spicy note to Egyptian dishes.
Come to Egypt and indulge all your senses – smell the aroma of Egyptian spices, taste the flavorful cuisine, listen to the bustle of the souk, take in the colorful beauty of the cities, and touch ancient history.
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