Bzar, an Emirati Spice Blend
It was kismet! My good friend, Arwa, over at La Mère Culinaire and I have been emailing back and forth about Emirati food. She keeps telling me how I have to head out to Dubai to get some serious cooking lessons in the cuisine of the region AND even went so far as to send me this gorgeously fragrant spice blend to entice me further. A few weekends ago, as I was catching up on all my food mag reading, I came across this article in Saveur that talks about the same blend! It’s called bzar, is key to making delicious and authentic Emirati cuisine, and I just had to share it with you all.
Now, this super special version that Arwa sent me is actually her grandmother’s secret recipe (love it!) that her aunts gather at her grandmother’s house to make. She tells me that you can pick up pre-fab versions of the blend in the UAE (and I’ve seen a few versions masquerading around as Arabic Spice Blend here), but apparently her grandma’s is the real deal and so I feel very fortunate to have some.
The good news is that the individual spices that make up the blend are all readily available. Cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, fenugreek seeds and dried red chilies all go into this complex blend, and the cumin, coriander and red chilies are dry roasted in a pan before blending to a powder with the rest of the ingredients.
Bzar is used to spice Emirati stews, which are often called saloona or marag, is an integral ingredient in Emirati foga, meaning “on top of”, which is a rice dish where lamb, chicken or fish is on top of the rice, and makes a great rub for fried fish! I used it in a lamb stew I made and even tried it with lentils (delicious!). It’s warm, earthy – perfect in time for the Fall and would make a fantastic rub for any roast. Bzar-rubbed roast chicken anyone?