Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ras El Hanout and the Meaning of Authentic in Food and Foodways

I was fortunate to go shopping at a local mom and pop market near where I live. This market, probably owned by Middle Easterners (no not people from Illinois or Ohio), has some specialty ingredients from that part of the world. Enough prologue. It's where I bought:

Ras El Hanout

According to the wiki article, this spice blend, in it's original formulation, contains ingredients local (and unique) to Morocco. And while lesser culinary lights than myself may argue that not using the full complement of ingredients does not make the blend un-authentic (phony?) I believe that to experience the flavors as they originated one must have all the ingredients available. You can say that one must have a little more of this or less of that, but without the availability of all the ingredients, the recipe must fail.

So, while looking up recipes for Ras El Hanout a while ago, I saw the typical ingredient list call-out has having nothing particularly Moroccan about it. To achieve an authentic blend, one or more of the following must be present.

ash berries
Grains of Paradise
orris root
Monk's pepper
dried rosebud

if your recipe eliminates or doesn't call for one or more of these listed ingredients, you Ras El Hanout fails. It's Ras El Hanout style. Only.

This is the Dahlia brand of Ras El Hanout. They only sell in three states at this time (September 2012) and I have no idea if they do mail order, but their web presence is:


 See the second image for the ingredient list.