My step-daughter is allergic to peanuts. Therefore my favourite nibbles/snacks are not that common in our house. When we like to add some nutty flavour into dishes when we cook, we always have to look to other flavor substitutes. One of our favourite has become sesame seeds. Sesame seeds are not only healthy, but you can use them in various way in cooking.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at sesame…
I personally came across sesame seeds that are used in Japanese and Chinese cuisine, however sesame originates from Sub – Saharan Africa, where it grows in the wild. In India, it is commonly cultivated for culinary uses such as oil and seeds.
Archeological excavations discovered charred sesame dating back to 3500 years ago. There are mentions of sesame through trading documents between Mesopotamia and India as well as reported claims that it was cultivated in Egypt during the Ptolemiac period. Through archeological reports from Turkey, we know that sesame was grown and pressed to extract oil during the empire of Urartu.
Historically, sesame has been a popular plant for its ability to grow in areas that do not support farming. The sesame fruit is a capsule which naturally opens once the seeds are fully ripe. Sesame seeds occur in many colours depending on the cultivar (white, buff, tan, gold, brown, grey and black).
Want to guess which countries are the biggest producers of sesame seeds these days? It’s…. Tanzania, India, China, Sudan, Myanmar, Nigeria. You might be asking how did the sesame seed get to Japan if it is not one of the leading producing countries. Well, Japan is the world’s largest sesame importer with a particular interest in roasted sesame seeds. China is the second largest importer of sesame, mostly in oil-grade. China is also well known for black sesame seed cultivation, which has been grown mainly for export.
Culinary use of sesame varies from between sesame oil and sesame seeds. Both raw sesame products are used all around the world in cuisines. Sesame seeds are added to bagels, breads and hamburger buns, used for cooking crackers, desserts and cakes. Sesame seeds are milled into flour and sesame oils are traditionally blended with other oils for deep frying.
We could be here for hours and talk about the culinary use of sesame, but let’s look at it within the world of beverages. In Japan, it is sometimes used for an alcoholic distilled beverage called shochu, while in China it is commonly blended with goji berries or almonds and turned into delicious refreshing teas, with a nutty flavour.
One of the cocktail classics is an Amaretto Sour and here is a gentle twist on it.
Cocktail recipe-Pompeii Sour
45 ml Amaretto
25 ml fresh lemon juice
10 ml sugar syrup
1 egg white
2 dashes of angostura bitters
3 drops of sesame oil
Combine all ingredients together and hard shake with ice. Strain into your preferred glass (rocks or old fashioned over ice or chilled martini glass) and enjoy.
Bartender’s note: “Sesame has a rich nutty flavour and like other nuts it can cause allergic reactions, be mindful.”