In Yemen, there are two famous spice blends called Hawaij (We thought it said Hawaii at first glance, too!): one sweet (for coffee) and one savory (for soup). We are familiar with other Middle Eastern savory spice blends like Za’atar or Ras-al-Hanout, but a formula for a sweet spice blend was something new to us, so we were totally intrigued. Hawaij coffee spice consists of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and clove (which I am betting smells amazing), and is typically incorporated into coffee as a flavoring. You can make your own spice blend with a recipe from A for Lifestyle or My Name is Yeh. We came across a lot of interesting non-traditional recipes incorporating Hawaij, including donuts, chocolate pots-de-creme, snickerdoodles and ice cream tarts.
Hawaij Coffee Donuts from My Name is Yeh
The Saara neighborhood is one of our favorite areas in Rio. It is a great place to shop for anything under the sun, people watch, and get a bite to eat on a sunny afternoon. The name “Saara” is rumored to derive from the word “Sahara,” an explanation that has entered into the public lore of Rio. Nowadays, the area is mostly given over to selling clothes, home goods, party/Carnaval supplies and any kind of bric-a-brac you would ever want (there is an entire store dedicated to Tupperware, for example). However, there are a few places in Saara that do specialize in Middle Eastern spices and foods. Our favorite, Casas Pedro, has several branches are sprinkled throughout Rio, including 3 in the Saara. You can get nearly any spice you could imagine at Casas Pedro, several kinds of cinnamon, tumeric, coriander, cumin, along with nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips and other oddities (even baking soda) sold by weight. You can also find “Pao Sirio” a kind of flatbread popular in Brazil, tahini paste, honey and other Middle Eastern packaged goods. If you are feeling hungry, a counter sells meat and cheese esfihas to go.
Casas Pedro in Rio
A beautiful post on the Flickr Blog has an assortment of pictures of spices from around the world. It’s worth a view. I am particularly impressed by these spice displays – they look too perfect to be real.