May We Recommend: Hawaij
Hawaij for sale at an Israeli market (Courtesy NY Shuk)
If you’re in the food business, you know you have made it when a supermarket chain carries your product. Imagine the jubilation when the founders of New York Shuk, a small start-up artisanal food company founded only six years ago, learned that their hawaij Yemenite spice mixture would be sold in all Whole Foods outlets in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. This is globalization: the seasoning of the Jews of Yemen meets the cuisine of the American northeast through the Amazon-owned food market.
In Israel, hawaij is used extensively by Yemenite Jews, in their classic bone soup, chicken soup and stews, and increasingly in the rest of Israeli cuisine, too. In the United States, however, hawaij is still a somewhat esoteric addition to one’s spice cabinet. But foodies are catching on and using it in all kinds of traditional and unexpected ways.
According to Sue Spertus Larkey, in her book, Bone Soup and Flipped Bread The Yemenite Jewish Table, there are two types of hawaij – a savory mixture for stews and soups and an aromatic blend for coffee and tea. The essential ingredients of the savory mixture are cumin and black pepper. In addition, hawaij can contain turmeric (which gives the meat and soup a yellowish tint), cardamom, as well as other spices. In Yemen, Jews generally constructed their own hawaij spice mixture, rather than buy it ready-made in the market. They would purchase the seeds and spices, roast, grind, and then assemble them. Each household’s hawaij was slightly different from the next.
Noted chef and cookbook writer Einat Admony makes hawaij from a mixture of ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, black pepper, and cardamom while that sold by New York Shuk includes all of the above, less the ground coriander. Leetal Arazi, co-founder of New York Shuk, says hawaij is one of the most used spice combinations in the company’s kitchen, for slow-simmered stews, for grilling, and as a dry spice rub. It also can be mixed with olive oil and then applied to roasting potatoes, beets, or carrots.
Israeli spice company, Pereg Gourmet, also sells a hawaij mixture for coffee that is a combination of ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. It gives a Middle Eastern lift to regular coffee and adds lots of unexpected flavor, giving your morning coffee a whole new taste profile. Noted food writer Molly Yeh even uses coffee hawaij in her recipes for apple pie and for donuts.
If you are looking for an all-American way to incorporate this Middle Eastern spice in your food, look no further than Bella Karragiannidis’ recipe for chicken potpie with hawaij. It is a dish at once familiar and exotic.