All Saudi women take pride in their cooking. Many women will make the same traditional and popular dishes but none will necessarily taste the same. The secret is in the spices. And I have learned that Saudi women do not like to share the secret of their spices for that in turn is giving away the secret of success to their special dishes. Most times when I have asked a Saudi women how she prepared a delicious dish she will most likely respond by telling me to let her know when I’d like her to fix it for me rather than give me the recipe!
I have also found it very enlightening and educational to watch Saudi women at the spice markets. They carefully inspect and choose which spices they ultimately select. And here is where one can also learn the true secrets and talents of the Saudi woman. Many of the women will have the spices mixed together creating their own unique blend. Mama Moudy, my own mother-in-law, also mixes her own spices but will typically do so after she returns home as she has her own special containers for each of her spices.
If you enjoy cooking Saudi food and also wish to cook the various Saudi recipes which I’ve been sharing each month, you may want to take this opportunity to write down these list of herbs, spices, nuts and seeds, and next time you go to the spice market or spice section of the grocery store, stock up on the following:
Herbs: parsley, dill, coriander, cilantro, thyme, marjoram, shayba (dried moss), mint, lemon grass, rose petals, sumac, zaatar
Spices: black pepper, red pepper, cumin, coriander, turmeric, saffron, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, mastika (gum Arabic), fennel, anise, ginger, marjoram, oregano, thyme, basil (rehan), bay leaves (waraq ghar), lemon salt, black lemon
Nuts and seeds: Nigella (habat al baraka), almonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds
These are some of the most popular spices and herbs used in cooking and baking Saudi dishes. No Saudi woman’s kitchen would be found without them. And of course, enjoy making your own mixes from multiple spices too!
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