cinnamon: 2 posts

Rubbish to Gems : A Tale of Javanese Tea Wedang Uwuh

While driving around the Indonesian countryside, especially in Sulawesi and Java, you see sheets of tarp spread along the side of the road with cloves or scrolls of cassia drying in the hot sun. The archipelago produces most of the world’s nutmeg and clove, spices over which wars were fought and nations colonized. Most of the produce drying on the plastic sheets is intended for export; the higher the quality the better the price farmers would fetch. Yet, no part of a spice tree is wasted, be it cassia, nutmeg or clove. Javanese tea, wedang uwuh, is an example of this philosophy.

Uwuh means rubbish in Javanese, and the tea uses all of the refuse from the spice production–nutmeg leaves, clove branches, cassia foliage and stems. (Another theory is that the tea is so called because the bits and ends floating in the liquid look like garbage.) Either way, garbage it is not, and one legend credits the Raja of Mataram with the discovery of wedang uwuh.

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Sweet Tomato Chutney with Pistachios and Raisins

That tomato is a fruit becomes obvious once you pair it with sugar or sweet ingredients. One of the main aromatic components of tomato, furaneol, is also called strawberry furanone by fragrance and flavor chemists, because it’s such an important note in the complex berry aroma. Incidentally, it’s one of the reasons behind difficulties with tomato accords in perfumery–they smell of red berries if there is even a modicum of sweetness in the formula. It’s therefore natural to treat tomato in much the same way as you would a fruit–cooking it into jams, combining it with sweet pastry or melting it down with vanilla and caramel for an ice cream sauce. Or you can make it into a sweet chutney to be served with grilled meat or rice dishes.

tomato chutney

Chutney is an Indian sauce that may be raw or cooked, and the ingredients run the gamut from fruits and vegetables to beans and nuts. I’m a chutney fiend. I firmly believe that a dollop of chutney makes anything better–a sandwich, a bowl of rice, a piece of grilled chicken. So do many Indians, because not only do they excel in coming up with the most unusual chutney combinations, they don’t hesitate in pairing them together. For instance, spicy green coriander chutney is often partnered with a sweet date one. As you dip crisp eggplant fritters first in one, then the other and experience the explosion of flavor, you understand how silly is the whole idea of “less is more.”

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