Hawaij – spice blend from Yemen

חוויאג' - Hawaij spice mix

חוויאג’ – Hawaij spice mix

Hawaij – spice blend from Yemen – is a spice mixture that may be unusual for some palates. The following is a spice mix that came to Israel along with immigrants from Yemen, and it is widespread among yemenites in Israel. Although one in Israel can buy this spice mixture called Hawaij at any “shouk” (market), at more northern latitudes it will be hard to find – despite the fact that there excists shops offering a variety of spices. The closer you get to the Arctic Circle, the harder it seems to come around a well equipped spice shop. Therefore I choose to publish this recipe.

Back in the days I can imagine that it was probably customary for each and every familiy to create their own spice mixture, and that they all had their own “secret recipe”. In Israel today it’s still like that – atleast amongst the Yemenite families. Or perhaps they all just went to the market back in the days as well, like most people do today? What do I know? Or, I can imagine that one family member helped the whole family with spices, while another took care of such things as preserving of vegetables.
But in the modern society it is the spiceman on the market that has taken over the role as spice supplier…

There are two different types Hawaij spice mixtures, both derived from the Yemenite kitchen: one is meant for soup, the other for black coffee. Spice mixture for soup are also used in stews, rice, vegetarian dishes and as barbecue spices rubbed into the meat. Basically this kind of Hawaij consists of cumin, black pepper, turmeric and cardamom. More intricate versions may also contain cloves, nutmeg, saffron, coriander and dried onions.

Recently I observed that the Arabic version is more reddish in color than the Israeli. The explanation for this is most likely to be found in the saffron, which is strong in color.
Hawaij intended for coffee mix is different (pepper doesn’t go well with coffee!) and it’s difficult to come over any good recipes online. I’ve reserached into the subject and asked different spicemen from Rosh Pina to Jerusalem, but they keep their secrets closely protected (maybe I’ll have to take up the craft myself, and become trained in the sorcery of the spices in order to create the perfect mixture?).

After taking a letter course in special interrrogation techniques and having talked intensively with my spice pushers, I’ve come up with these following ingredients. Remember that you’ll have to improvise and experiment in order top find the mixture that suits you best, and if you for some weird reason don’t know how to improvise: try to start off with one teaspoon of each as basis.
Spices will keep in an airtight container in a cool dry place 1 month.

  • Ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Some also use nutmeg.

It is primarily used in coffee, but also in desserts, cakes and long boiling meat dishes.

And here is a recipe for soup-hawaij:

■ 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
■ 1 tablespoon cumin
■ 1 / 2 tablespoons cardamom seeds
■ 1 / 2 tablespoon ground cumin
■ 3 / 4 tablespoon ground turmeric
■ 1 / 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
■ 1 / 2 tablespoon cloves
■ 1 / 2 tablespoons ground dried coriander leaves

Mix all ingredients and store them in an airtight glass. It is best if you use whole spices and dry roast them (dry fry without oil) in a hot pan (only the whole seeds) and let them cool off before crushing and blending everything in a mortar. At this point you add the powdered spices and you may also add saffron.

By the way hawaij is pronounced with a kind of a D/G at the end – hawaiidj. חוויאג

Source: Janna Gur – “The Book of New Israeli Food“.

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One thought on “Hawaij – spice blend from Yemen

  1. Pingback: Where Moses spotted the Holy Land « Cardinal Guzman

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