Mar 18, 2012

The Evolution of Hawaiian Spice

Hawaiian sea salt collected on Moloka'i
Click on photo to view larger
The ancient Hawaiians had a very bland diet of kalo (taro), 'uala (sweet potato), and 'ulu (breadfruit). They seasoned their food with sea salt, the first spice used in the Hawaiian Islands. When the tide was high, sea water washed ashore. Then the sea water would collect into little puddles on the rocks. When the tide was low and the sun was very hot, the puddles would evaporate and crystallize into salt. It was gathered and used as a common condiment. 

Limu is the Hawaiian word for algae, which was gathered from the tidepools by the Hawaiian women. Limu played an important part in the ancient Hawaiian diet. It was used to add flavor to their bland food. 

Inamona, a condiment made of roasted, mashed kukui nutmeats, Hawaiian sea salt and sometimes mixed with seaweeds like Limu, often accompanied the meals. It wasn't until much later that multiethnic immigrants introduced their spices to the Hawaiian Islands. They were particularly of American, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Polynesian and Portuguese origins. 

Today we see a heavy Asian influence, Teriyaki has become the most popular way of treating meats. Other common Asian spices include Five-spice powder from China, Wasabi and Shoyu (Soy sauce) from Japan, and Bagoong from the Philippines. Types of spicy condiments endemic to Hawaiian cuisine include Huli-huli sauce and Chili pepper water. Hawaiian cuisine is unique, a fusion of various cuisines heavily influenced by the spices from around the world. 

Spice Recipes:

Spices are very personal. This is my Island Seasoning, that I call StarDust. 
I use it on seafood, chicken, beef, pork and vegetables, I hope you enjoy it.

4 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Hawaiian Alaea sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 1/4 teaspoons black pepper
2 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon chili powder

Combine all ingredients; store in an airtight container. Makes about 1 cup.

Inamona is a condiment used in Hawaiian cooking made from roasted, ground kukui nuts (candlenuts) and Hawaiian sea salt. The paste is served with poke and also with sushi, and adds balance and a nutty flavor to the fish.

12 kukui nut kernels
1 teaspoon Hawaiian sea salt
Ground red chili pepper to taste

Roast the nuts whole over a grill or in a 250˚F oven for an hour and a half or until golden brown. Take one kukui nut to test and crack it open with a hammer. The meat inside should be a dark brownish color, when ready. Cool the nuts, scrape out the meat and chop fine. Mash in a mortar with a pestle to a fine consistency. Add Hawaiian salt and red chili pepper to taste. This produces a rich paste to serve in pinches over poke or cooked fish. Makes 1/3 to 1/2 cup.

Note: Inamona should be approached with some caution. When roasting, the nuts give off an acrid, sinus-blocking smell. If you use the meat from the kukui nut before it is fully cooked or you eat too much inamona, you could get a very bad stomach ache. Add one tablespoon of Inamona to 2 pounds of sashimi-grade ahi tuna when making poke.

Chicken Rub
Chicken is one of America's favorite foods because it's inexpensive, easy to prepare, and usually delicious. Many people just season their chicken with oil, salt and pepper, however with a little effort you can make your next chicken taste even better by using my chicken rub recipe.

3/4 cup Hungarian style sweet paprika
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne

Procedure for roast chicken:
Wash whole chicken and dry with paper towels. Rub outside of the chicken with olive oil or butter, then rub on about 2 tablespoons chicken rub. Roast chicken on a rack, in a foil lined pan, in a 400˚F oven. for about 1 hour, or until chicken tests 170˚F with instant-read thermometer.

This recipe makes about 2 cups of chicken seasoning. Save the leftover seasoning rub for your next chicken dinner. Keep it in an air-tight container in a dark, cool place.

Note: You can use this rub on roast chicken, or fried chicken.

Pork Rib Rub
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Wash the 2 racks of baby back ribs (about 4 pound total) and blot dry. Remove the thin papery skin on the back of each rack of ribs. (Pull it off in a sheet with your fingers, using a corner of a dish towel to gain a secure grip.)

Combine the ingredients for the rub in mixing bowl and stir with your fingers to mix. Rub about 2/3 of this mixture on the ribs on both sides. Put the ribs in a pan and cover with plastic wrap. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Place the ribs on the grill over the drip pan and cover the grill. Start basting with mop sauce after 30 minutes, basting every 20 minutes. Cook the ribs for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours until done. The ribs are done when the meat is very tender and it has shrunk back from the ends of the bones. If using a charcoal grill, replenish the coals after 1 hour. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Homemade Taco Seasoning Blend
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/4 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/4 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon salt

Measure out all the ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well. Then taste and adjust the salt or spices as desired. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Makes 1/2 cup.

Thai Seasoning Blend
This spice blend can be used to impart Thai flavor to meat and seafood, or veggies or grains. You can also use it as a dry rub. To make an easy Thai marinade, toss a generous scoop of this seasoning mixture into creamy coconut milk.

1/2 tablespoon dried cumin
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground dried hot Thai chilies, or to taste
2 tablespoons dried lemongrass
2 tablespoons dried lime zest
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons dried ginger
2 tablespoons dried mint
2 tablespoons toasted unsweetened coconut, ground

Combine all ingredients with a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Store in an airtight jar. (The little spice jars with rubber gasket seals keep herbs fresh longer than jars with screw-on tops.)

Greek Seasoning
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried dillweed
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine all ingredients with a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Store in an airtight jar. (The little spice jars with rubber gasket seals keep herbs fresh longer than jars with screw-on tops.)

Italian Seasoning
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried sage
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried flat leaf Italian parsley

Combine all ingredients with a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Store in an airtight jar. (The little spice jars with rubber gasket seals keep herbs fresh longer than jars with screw-on tops.)

Cajun Seasoning
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients with a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Store in an airtight jar. (The little spice jars with rubber gasket seals keep herbs fresh longer than jars with screw-on tops.)

Fish Seasoning
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon sesame seed
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt

Combine ingredients in a blender. Blend until sesame seeds or ground. Rub fish or shrimp with olive oil, then sprinkle with Fish Seasoning. Grill until cooked through. I also like to season fish with this rub, then coat the fish with corn meal and fry in canola oil. Makes about 1/4 cup.

Greek Spice Blend
1/3 cup garlic powder
1/3 cup oregano
1/3 cup basil
1/4 cup onion powder
1/4 cup sea salt or 2-3 tablespoons of regular salt
1/4 cup pepper
1 tablespoon sugar

Combine all ingredients with a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Store in an airtight jar. (The little spice jars with rubber gasket seals keep herbs fresh longer than jars with screw-on tops.)

Greek Salad Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon style mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of Greek Spice Blend

Blend all of the ingredients together and pour over a salad of mixed greens, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, and crumbled feta cheese.

Bahārāt, which simply means "spice" in Arabic, is an all-purpose seasoning used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Aromatic, warm, and sweet, a pinch of bahārāt can add depth and flavor to soups, tomato sauces, lentils, rice pilafs, and couscous. It can also be used as a rub for fish, poultry, and meat; mixed with olive oil and used as a vegetable marinade; and blended with garlic, parsley, and olive oil to make a condiment paste. We recommend starting with whole spices, which tend to be more flavorful, especially when they are toasted before grinding.

2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
4 (3-inch) cassia or cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons ground sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Grind the whole spices using a mortar and pestle, spice mill, or coffee grinder. (You may need to do it in several batches.) Add the paprika and nutmeg and combine.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Quatre Épices
Traditionally used with rich meats, such as wild game (venison), or beef cooked in red wine, and when curing meats for charcuterie, this ancient French blend of “four spices” is also tasty in place of regular pepper as a finishing seasoning. For best results, use freshly ground spices.

1 tablespoon white pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves

Combine all ingredients with a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Store in an airtight jar.

Apple Pie Spice
To flavor cakes, cookies and pastries, add 2 teaspoons per cup of flour to the dry ingredients. Fruitcakes, pies and rich, sweet foods can handle up to double that amount. Simply grind the spices, and stir to combine.

4 teaspoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds

Combine all ingredients with a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Store in an airtight jar. (The little spice jars with rubber gasket seals keep herbs fresh longer than jars with screw-on tops.)

Gingerbread Spice
I make this Gingerbread Spice to give away during the Holidays, along with the Gingerbread recipe below. Or for a dinner party, make the Gingerbread and give out the recipe.

Gingerbread Spice Ingredients:
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Fresh-Baked Gingerbread
Vegetable cooking spray
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup light buttermilk
1 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Gingerbread Spice (recipe above)
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Ingredients for Yogurt Sauce:
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more to sprinkle over the cake
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Lightly spray a 9 by 13 by 2-inch cake pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment or waxed paper.

Whisk together the applesauce, buttermilk, molasses, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and gingerbread spice together in a large bowl. Add the molasses mixture into the flour mixture and whisk until combined.

Bring the water and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the hot liquid to the batter, and whisk until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake in the center of the oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack. When the cake has cooled, pour confectioners' sugar into a strainer and sprinkle the top of the cake with sugar. Cut into 12 squares and serve with a dollop of Yogurt Sauce on the side.

To make the Yogurt Sauce:
Whip cream in a small bowl until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract; continue whipping until firm peaks form. Fold in Greek yogurt. 

Makes 12 servings.

'Chai' Spice Mix
The word 'Chai' literally means tea to much of the world. Chai Spice Mix is great prepared as a black tea latte (recipe below). It is also great added to pancakes, cake batter, or cookies. Try sprinkling on apple chips for a snack, or in apple pie before baking. Actually there are many variations to Chia Spice Mix, like adding star anise, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, lemongrass, and mint, but this is my favorite blend:

4 teaspoons ground cardamom
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice

Blend all ingredients well. Store in a tightly covered container until ready to use.

Note: To a recipe for Chai-Spiced Bundt Cake, click here.

Chai Black Tea Latte
Type of tea to use: When choosing a black tea, remember that not all black teas taste the same. Just like with fine wine, there are so many variables that give individual black teas their own particular flavor profiles. Generally, black tea is stronger, bolder and richer than green tea. A brewed black tea can range in color from amber to red to dark brown, and its flavor profile can range from savory to sweet, depending on how long it was oxidized and how it was it was heat processed. Black tea typically has more astringency and bitterness than green tea, but if brewed correctly it should be smooth and flavorful. Darjeeling Black Tea, my favorite for this recipe, is grown in a smaller, mountainous tea-producing region of India, Darjeeling is a softer, more herbaceous black tea that can change season to season with the climate. Darjeeling is often used as the tea base for India’s popular spiced beverage, Chai.

Procedure:To make a Chia Tea Latte, simply put 2 teaspoons of Chai Spice Mix, plus 2 tea bags of Darjeeling black tea into the filter basket of a drip coffeemaker. Add 1 cup of water; brew according to manufacturer's directions.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of milk, 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of refrigerated French vanilla nondairy creamer. Cook and stir over medium heat until heated through and sugar is dissolved. Pour milk mixture into 2 mugs; stir in tea. Dollop with whipped topping, with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top. Makes 2 servings.

Note: For those of you who want all of the work done for you, you can buy teabags filled with black tea and Chai spice mix from, click here.

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