The spice!
March 18, 2011 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Welcome to Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages On these pages, I present solid information on (currently) 117 different spice plants. Emphasis is on their usage in ethnic cuisines, particularly in Asia; furthermore, I discuss their history, chemical constituents, and the etymology of their names. Last but not least, there are numerous photos featuring the live plants or the dried spices.
posted by halcyon_daze (27 comments total) 84 users marked this as a favorite
Previously (albeit 7 years ago).
posted by jedicus at 6:46 PM on March 18, 2011

Okay raise your hand if you read that as spice planets and got really excited for a second?
posted by The Whelk at 6:48 PM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

Oh, I forgot some quotation marks, too. That whole paragraph is from the site. Mods, perhaps you could add those if this stays up? Spice!
posted by halcyon_daze at 6:52 PM on March 18, 2011

I discuss their history, chemical constituents, and the etymology of their names.

Oh my dear lord, this is what the internet is for. 7 year repeat or no, this is good stuff.
posted by jquinby at 6:55 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think five years is the exleration date for doubles so this totally counts and also it is cool.
posted by The Whelk at 6:59 PM on March 18, 2011


Easier than calling mom across time zones and inability to describe said spice or recognize it.

double, what double?
posted by infini at 7:01 PM on March 18, 2011

Very nice; I am glad I caught it this time around but favorited both posts for good measure.

The etymology section is really cool; it helped answer one of my nagging questions that I have often considered posting to AskMe. Although the term "savory" (as opposed to "sweet") is familiar in western cooking, the actual spice is rarely seen; why is that? Evidently it is a case of convergent evolution of both words (I imagine there is a more precise linguistic term but I don't know it).
posted by TedW at 7:13 PM on March 18, 2011

One of my all-time favorite sites on the internet! Btw if you're a German speaker, Gernot Katzer also has published his page in book format. I love leafing through it!
posted by The Toad at 7:35 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a spice-rack dilettante with proclivities towards shopping in many an ethnic foodmart, I'm mildly curious about any far-fetched, strangely-hued powders that catch my eye. Except for asa foetida, which I always notice, and have decided is simply too awful a name not to indelibly taint whatever the hell it is inside that bottle.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 8:24 PM on March 18, 2011

Asafetida is great stuff - you can use it to replace onions if you suffer from being married to someone with an irrational hatred of onions. Also supposed to be good for your digestion (pure hearsay). Just a pinch does it.

What I adore is good paprika - I never realised how much bad paprika is sold until I had some of the good stuff. I don't know what the major stores do to it, but it tastes like dust, even when new. But the stuff in the bulk spice shop has a wonderful, strong flavour. They have a hot variety that is even better.
posted by jb at 8:39 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hungarian hot paprika was my first experience of paprika that wasn't just food coloring.

I really love this page, especially for the links to places to buy black (Imperial) cumin. Some spices are so hard to find and then you go into an Indian grocery, and they are all oh you mean shahi jeera, why didn't you say that the last two times you were in? The etymology is so byzantine too, with spices having the same name that are entirely separate species. Stupid people putting their taste buds ahead of their taxonomy!
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:17 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

The page has a lot of marvelous information, but it is cranky and slow loading.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:58 PM on March 18, 2011

Hungarian hot paprika was my first experience of paprika that wasn't just food coloring.

That shit is like a gateway drug. You try and for like 4 months afterward everything you make is hot and red and slightly smokey. EVERYTHING.

Even the ice cream.
posted by The Whelk at 10:55 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hot red smokey ice cream actually sounds really good for me. But I'm a big fan of red chile and chocolate so maybe I'm weird.
posted by NoraReed at 11:37 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dried chili, candied orange and chocolate all together is heavenly.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:29 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Asafoetida (called hing in hindi but pronounced closer to heeng) is indeed a digestif - the pinch put in tempering dal (lentils) is specifically used to counteract teh gassy nature of the beans. I personally have never seen it used for anything other than in dals or other lentil dishes.
posted by infini at 4:07 AM on March 19, 2011

Oh wow! I remember finding his site in an earlier incarnation when I was living in Holland and was all like, just WTF IS that called in Dutch? (Or vice versa). Looks like he's added even more stuff. It's probably the oldest website I still visit...going on 15 years now.
posted by digitalprimate at 4:46 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

What good timing! Last week I went into a local Indian market and picked up some cardamom, except it was black cardamom, not the green cardamom. Turns out there is a big difference, but thanks to the Interwebz I did some reverse engineering of recipes and discovered that black cardamom is useful in hearty dishes like Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken) or Tandoori.

I made some in the slow cooker the other day, throwing the pods into cheesecloth package instead of directly in the sauce. Ohmigod killer. Here's my recipe for slow cooker Butter Chicken modified from a few sources on the web.

2 lbs chicken thighs (frozen), 1 onion chopped, 4 chopped garlic cloves, 3 tsp chopped ginger, 4 T butter (or Ghee if you're going all in), 10 black cardamom pods crushed slightly, 2 tsp Madras curry, 1 tsp cayenne, 2 tsp garam masala, can of coconut milk, 6 ounces tomato paste, 2 T lemon.

Throw into a slow cooker on low for 8 hours, add 1 cup yogurt toward end. Garnish with cilantro and sliced lemon. Boom goes the dynamite!

Next stop on the black cardamom train is this Sichuan Red-Cooked Beef with Turnips recipe found on the middle of the page.
posted by jeremias at 5:07 AM on March 19, 2011 [22 favorites]

This asafoetida, it smells? ;p but seriously, I have always received minuscule amounts from mom in those plastic containers photo films come in and just popped that into my spice box. Given all the variety of pungency in my masala shelf, I've never noticed the hing in particular.

tl;dr airtight container, ziploc not enough.
posted by infini at 5:49 AM on March 19, 2011

This is super-useful. Thanks!
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:20 AM on March 19, 2011

I personally have never seen [asafoetida] used for anything other than in dals or other lentil dishes.

infini, it's also used to flavor some papadams, and I've seen it as an ingredient in chutneys.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:27 AM on March 19, 2011

My superior asafoetida technique is keeping it an airtight container inside another airtight container.
posted by zamboni at 8:58 AM on March 19, 2011

IAmBroom - yes, hing papad, (most likely by Lijjat) I forgot!
posted by infini at 10:05 AM on March 19, 2011

When my mom was young 70 years ago, she dreaded colds because she was made to wear a bag of stinky asafoedita around her neck.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:31 AM on March 19, 2011

Wonderful site. Thanks for posting. Just spent an hour browsing through it.
In 4 weeks time it should be harvest time for my secret ramson (wild garlic) fields here in Sweden.
Can hardly wait.
posted by jan murray at 5:37 PM on March 19, 2011

Gernot's site has been up, basically unchanged in design, at its ~ address, for well over a decade now, and deserves the best-of-the-web equivalent of a lifetime achievement award.

Pimenton de la Vera is Spanish-style smoked paprika, and while it's not inherently better than the Hungarian stuff, you're less likely to encounter the equivalent of the red dust that passes for supermarket paprika.

I store my little pill-bottle-sized tub of asafoetida inside a tightly-closed glass jar that, I think, used to hold mayonnaise.
posted by holgate at 10:52 PM on March 19, 2011

Ha- I randomly found this site a couple of days ago through some other searches I was doing and was amazed by it; I endorse your posting it here.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:54 PM on March 19, 2011

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