Short & Spicy: Cumin


Short & Spicy are bite-sized descriptions of spices that make perfect morsels so perfect.

What: Cumin is the dried seed of a plant that belongs to the parsley family. It is the second most popular spice in the world after black pepper. Originally from Egypt, it is now grown in countries with hot climates like India, North Africa, Mexico and China. Light or dark brown in color, the seed is tiny, ridged and oblong. It is often confused with another seed called caraway since they look very similar.

Taste & Smell: Strong, slightly bitter, warm, nutty and smoky. At times a little peppery with hints of citrus. A warm roasted aroma, especially when heated.

Main use: Widely used in Indian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, North African, Spanish and Mexican cuisines. Used whole or powdered. The seeds are often fried in oil or dry roasted (directions below) to intensify their flavor and distinctive aroma. A versatile spice that is found in many dishes from around the world such as fried fish, roasted lamb, tacos, moles, bean stews, lentils and curries.

Other uses: Considered to have some medicinal uses when eaten whole or steeped in hot water. Health benefits include better digestion, a stimulated appetite, reduced nausea during pregnancy, and detoxification of the liver. According to an old European superstition, cumin was believed to keep loved ones faithful and was considered to be a lucky charm for a happy marriage. Therefore, the bride and groom would carry cumin during their wedding ceremony and husbands would drink wine infused with cumin when leaving for a war.

Other names: jeera (Hindi), kammun (Arabic), yi-ra (Thai), comino (Spanish), cumin (French)

Story/Memory/Recipe: Read Spiced Latkes: From 0 to 60

Dry roasting method: Add the cumin seeds to a hot non-stick or cast iron pan. Do not use any oil. Heat till the seeds release an aroma and turn a slightly darker brown. Allow the seeds to cool down completely. Use whole or grind to a powder.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>