Chili pastes are all the rage these days with the Asian varieties like sriracha taking the biscuit for most people. And I can’t disagree, sriracha has depth of flavor rather than just pure heat and makes the best. chicken. wings. ever. But stepping a bit further west to the Middle East, the condiments stashed at the back of Jerusalem are full of interest and intrigue and there’s more plenty of spice for chili lovers too.
If you’re looking for something fresh to lift a dish that might otherwise be heavy or rich, pilpelchuma might not be the answer. It’s deep, smoky and full of spice: cumin, smoked paprika, and loaded with garlic. Zhoug on the other hand is packed with fresh, zesty herbs: cilantro and parsley, and has floral notes from cardamom and cloves. Pilpelchuma uses dried red chillies, adding to the deep earthy flavor. Zhoug uses green chillies, packed with heat, acidity and freshness.
Determining the heat factor is entirely up to you. I chose to use one chili without the seeds and one with, but it still came out as hot as Hades. Unlike the pilpelchuma, I think zhoug might be better suited to a mild punch of heat which doesn’t then overpower the floral, fresh layers of flavor that float through from the herbs and spices.
I followed the recipe in the book letter for letter, but here is a recipe from Blue Kale Road that is pretty similar, barring the extraordinary amounts of garlic. Later in the week I’ll be trying this out in a new recipe from Jerusalem, so stay tuned! But if you’re interested in learning more about this ingredient or about the cookbook in general, check out Tasting Jerusalem (on Twitter with #tastingjrslm, Facebook, Google Plus and Pinterest) as well as the Tasting Jerusalem boss lady Beth Lee’s wonderful blog OMG Yummy!