Trendy Ingredients: Spice Mixes

September 11, 2013

For Joël Watanabe-who turns out a heady mix of Shanghainese, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese dishes from the kitchen at Bao Bei-even side dishes are stars. "As a kid my mom would sprinkle gomashio [toasted sesame seeds ground with salt] over cold, blanched spinach. I started thinking of a way to modernize the dish. I was seeing za'atar [a Middle Eastern blend of herbs, sesame, and sumac] on a lot of menus, and I connected its bright, complex spice with that taste from childhood. ­Sumac has a lemony warmth and great acidity, cumin brings in the western Chinese flavours, so I came up with a dish that tied it all together." Photos: Carlo Ricci, Illustrations: Claire McCracken






Crunchy water spinach is blanched in chicken stock, garlic, Thai chili, and imported white soy sauce ("for that umami hit"), sprinkled with barely cooked sea asparagus for a textural boost, and topped with Watanabe's take on za'atar 




At chef Marc-André Choquette's Homer St. Café and Bar, a seriously gorgeous new room, rotisserie chicken is rubbed with an ever-changing mix of signature spices including za'atar; on East Hastings, humble Palestinian mom 'n' pop shop Tamam takes a more orthodox approach


More Trendy Ingredients: Fabulous ferments

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