Is it me or is it getting hot in here? Like, Zhug hot?
Well, someone call the fire department because things are burning up in here in the form of this Yemeni inspired Zhug (Hebrew: סחוג); Yemen’s addition to the fiery chilli sauce shelf – or at least my own version of it anyway. Use it as a dipping sauce, a general condiment, a marinade, or just a little heat addition to any soup, stew or meal, and this fiery chilli sauce will certainly get things tingling. ?
Loaded with the flavours of green chillies (duh!) cilantro, parsley, garlic, cardamon, fennel and cumin to give a little boost in all things flavour and fire, make a batch of this Zhug and you’ll have enough to last you for months and – if you’re a chilli fiend like me – you’ll be spooning this over everything!
I’ve also added Green bell pepper to this recipe just to make it go a little further and to tame that chilli hotness a wee bit – because an authentic Zhug is nothing more than green chilli fire in a jar.
So although this may not be a 100% authentic Yemeni Zhug (which is also popular in Israeli Jewish cuisine) it certainly tastes just as good.
I feel, as a) a fellow foodie and b) a person who has had their fair share of kitchen mishaps (I seem to have a love/hate relationship with sharp knives, steam, oven heated plates and – as you will find out – chillies) I feel I need to warn you about preparing and working with chillies.
It may seem obvious to state that chillies are hot. It also seems obvious to note that chillies will make things burn including your mouth, and fingers. And if you’ve ever cut up chillies and then rubbed your eyes →guilty← you’ll know the pain. But sometimes, in the comfort of our own kitchen, we can forget the simple safety precautions and I learned the hard way (in fact I’ve learned the hard way several times – you’d think I would have learned by now, right????) about chillies.
So, picture the scene: I’m in my kitchen feeling excited, in the only way that a food obsessed foodie can be, about making my very own chilli sauce (think a concocted sriracha type deal). The process was meant to be simple: cut up a load of chillies (1 kg to be exact) along with garlic, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fresh turmeric, fresh ginger etc and sprinkled everything with salt. The salt would be rubbed into the ingredients to help draw out moisture and then everything would be placed into jars, submerged under their own liquid, and fermented for several days before finding its way into my food processor and being blitzed into one fiery chilli sauce.
Now I’m a big fan of chilli, and there are very few meals that I don’t include it. As such, chopping and handling chillies almost on a daily basis has made my hands pretty tolerable to the capsaicin which is the flavonoid which gives chillies their heat. So wearing protective gloves or similar whilst preparing chillies has become a defunct item in my kitchen.
And so, with very little though about the amount of chillies I was preparing, I sprinkled salt over 1kg of chillies and I rubbed it in – and I mean rubbed, hard. Almost like scrubbing the dried contents of a dirty fry pan.
I look back at this and shake my head at myself with shame. What was I thinking… idiot (and that’s putting it lightly!)
For about an hour after I had made the chilli sauce, everything was fine. And then, my right hand began to burn. An hour later it was burning hotter than I’ve every experienced before???? – and this is coming from someone who has received their fair share of burns. I spent hours running my hand under cold water and I tried all the suggested methods of calming the burning I could find :
- I slathered my hand in olive oil (capsaicin is not water soluble so oil helps to get rid of it)
- I smother my hand in yogurt (and then sour cream and thickened cream because I ran out of yogurt and I was desperate.)
- I even plunged my hand into a bowl of milk which had unfortunately gone bad in my fridge. Yes, I was so desperate to stop the burning I plunged my hand into lumpy, fouls-smelling milk.
In reality, the capsaicin from the chillies had penetrated so far into my skin that nothing was able to cool it down – it was too late – and there was nothing more that I could do other than wait it out. It took about 24 hours for the burning to finally subside and cool down and I spent that night dangling my arm over the side of the bed, with my hand submerged in a huge bucket of ice water for that was the only thing that brought me comfort.
The moral of the story? Don’t be an idiot like me and prepare chillies without hand protection – especially if your are an unseasoned chilli person. And certainly don’t rub salt into 1kg of chillies with your bare hands – you will pay the price!
But, if you are not a kitchen idiot then by all means have a go at this super delicious – and super hot – Yemeni chilli sauce. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also make a variation by swapping the green chillies and bell pepper for red ones.
Recipe adapted from Tori AveyPrint
Yemeni Zhug – Green Chilli Sauce
Is it getting hot in here? Loaded with chillies, cumin, garlic this Yemeni Zhug will add all the spicy heat you need to your Middle-Eastern inspired meals
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 1 to 1.5 cups
- 6 Long Green Chillies (see note)
- 1 green bell pepper
- 10 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 1 bunch parsley, coarsely chopped
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 Tbsp Fennel seeds
- 1/2 Tbsp ground cardamon
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- Olive oil
- Place a small skillet over medium heat and toast the cumin and fennel seeds for a few minutes or until fragrant and crackling slightly. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Once the seeds have cooled place them and the rest of the ingredients, with a splash of olive oil, into a food processor. Blitz together until a chunky, pesto-like consistency is formed, adding more olive oil if needed. Can be stored in the refrigerator for several months.
- Depending on your love for chillies and their hotness you can keep or discard the chilli seeds