Hawaij Is the Next Big Thing in Spices
What is this warming spice blend that looks like it reads Hawaii? For starters, it’s actually called hawaij and is pronounced, “ha-why-idge” and trust us when we say it’s about to take the U.S. by storm. We spoke with head chef of Hello Fresh, Claudia Sidoti as well as Angelo Viterale, the chef and owner of Italian restaurant in Queens, New York Ornella Trattoria, for more information on the spice. Spoiler alert: you’re going to want to add this stuff to just about everything.
What is hawaij?
“Hawaij is the name given to a mix of a variety of Yemeni spices,” says Viterale, who cooks with the spice blend often. “The main spices used are cumin, black pepper, turmeric, and cardamom.” Sounds like a savory mix, yes? Sidoti says hawaij in Yemeni translates to, mixture, so the name is fitting, to say the least. She also says that the spice blend can contain coriander and clove.
Hawaij is an anti-inflammatory spice, thanks to the presence of turmeric, which lends the dark yellow color to this flavorful spice blend. The antioxidant curcumin is actually the inflammation-fighting component in turmeric, which is known to alleviate pain and swelling in the joints of those with arthritis.
What dishes should hawaij be added to?
This blend is more on the savory side, so as Sidoti explains, hawaij works, “great as a rub on red meats such as lamb, pork and beef but also delicious on chicken, fish, and vegetables.” She suggests rubbing the spice onto either meat or vegetables an hour before grilling or roasting [in order] to achieve optimal flavor. Both Sidoti and Viterale noted that the mix is traditionally used in Yemeni soups, so it’s another way to bring flavor to a dish that could be a little bland. Your chicken soup will be kicked up a notch, that’s for sure! But meat and veggie-based dishes aren’t the only foods this spice can add some spunk to.
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What else can hawaij spice up?
“There is also a different mixture of hawaij that can be used for coffee as well,” says Viterale. Pereg Natural Foods is one such company that sells the spice blend that’s specifically made for coffee. But don’t worry—the flavors are different, so you won’t be adding any black pepper to your cup of Joe.
“Sometimes it crosses into sweets and beverages,” adds Sidoti. She says the hawaij blend that’s specifically made for coffee tends to comprise other warm spices, including cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. “Try a little the next time you make gingerbread, carrot cake, snickerdoodles or even oatmeal cookies,” she suggests.
What’s the best way to cook with hawaij?
Dishes you can whip up in a slow cooker seem to be the clear winners.
“Typically I love to use these mixtures of spices when I’m braising meat for slow cooking. Or my personal favorite, chickpea stew,” says Viterale. “The mix of these spices gives a beautiful aroma to the stew itself. I love to fill the stew with a ton of vegetables, and sometimes even big chunks of pancetta so by the time the stew is done, the meat cuts like butter.”
So, are you ready to try hawaij?