The Wonders of Herbs and Spices
Mrs. Wasantha Gunawardana, spouse of the Ambassador of Sri Lanka, hosted our English Conversation meeting on 15 October 2018. “The Wonders of Herbs and Spices” was chosen as the theme for this meeting.
We began with a very interesting video presentation on Sri Lanka, a green island state with diverse micro-climates and soil types, most suitable for the cultivation and growth of teas, herbs and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, betel, chillies, curry and pandan leaves, ginger, lemon grass, mustard, nutmeg, pepper, tamarind, turmeric, vanilla, and many more! Egypt, India, Indonesia and Kenya have similar favorable weather and soil conditions so that many of these herbs and spices are also home-grown and therefore readily available.
Fortunately, thanks to ancient trade routes and modern transportation systems, spices and herbs have found their way around the world. The Djiboutian ethnic cuisine benefits from spices coming from India and the neighboring Ethiopia. Cape Verda and Singapore grow their own herbs but import spices for their multi-cultural cuisines and delicious sauces.
Many popular dishes in the Philippines blend local ingredients with herbs or spices from around the world, but do try the traditional soup Sinigang, seasoned with the tamarind fruit! The British like their curries, prepared with imported spices such as turmeric, chillies, cumin and ginger, as much as their roast beef with home-grown horseradish and mustard.
Iran is a land of saffron. The dried stigmas (thread-like parts of the flower) are used to make saffron spice, which enhances the flavor, fragrance and color of the food. The health benefits of saffron include improving respiratory and digestive systems.
Japan and wasabi! This root is grated into a green paste and traditionally served along with sushi and sashimi. Another essential Japanese herb is shiso, the Japanese basil leaf, which is used as a refreshing garnish to fish, rice, soup or tempura. Both wasabi and shiso have antibacterial properties.
While cayenne pepper, paprika, parsley and garlic are key spices in the Argentinian cuisine, the famous Argentinian steak is best served with oregano, a culinary herb cultivated locally.
Finally, dill and chives are two wonderful herbs very much used in European cooking. In Germany, chives along with dill are popular as a seasoning for fish, as a garnish and as flavoring on potatoes and in salads.