Fruits Hung Out to Dry

March 1, 2003

3 Min Read
Fruits Hung Out to Dry

Dried fruit, including their pulp and/or peel, are enjoyed globally as snacks, and give wonderful accents and textures to savory and sweet dishes and beverages. Whether its raisins in Mexican capirotadas, sultanas in Persian pilafs, kaffir lime peel in Balinese curries or flaky dried coconut in Keralan vegetables, dried fruits add zip to dishes with their sweet, sour and astringent flavors.

Since medieval times, the English and French have added prunes, or dried plums, to meat or game dishes, sweetmeats, or they have stewed them with red wine and spices. Dried grapes — raisins, sultanas and currants (Zante grape) — are popular in North American, English and Mediterranean cooking.

Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks used dried figs to sweeten foods and beverages, and to enhance savory dishes. Today, figs’ nutty, fruity notes find a place in Turkish, Middle Eastern, and Californian cuisine in desserts, soups and stews. Dried dates, a staple for Arab dishes, add a fruity, sweet taste to Moroccan chicken tagines, and aromatic North African and Middle Eastern rice dishes and desserts.

Tamarind is formulated into candies and beverages in Mexico, and perks up south Indian soups, lentil curries and dips. Also sold as dried pieces or pulp, its sweet and sour, molasses-like flavor tones down fiery curries, while complementing the yogurt, mint and cilantro notes of samosa dips and dumpling sauces. An important flavoring in Worcestershire sauce, it also balances flavors in Indonesian salads, Thai tom-yum and Chinese hot-and-sour soups, and pungent Malaysian sambals and Indonesian satays.

Dried green mango, or amchur, available sliced or powdered, delivers tartness to curries, pickles, chutneys and vegetables, and tenderizes meats. Chefs commonly use this in Caribbean curries and chutneys, or mixed with chiles, fish paste and sugar for mouth-watering Southeast Asian salads. Amchur is an essential ingredient in the tart Indian spice blend, called chaat, or green, masala.

Along India’s southwest coast, dried purplish-black pieces of kokum — a popular summer fruit — zest up the local coconut-based fish curries, vegetables and chutneys with their fruity, sour and slightly smoky notes.

Pomegranate adds a fruity sweet-sour note to Persian, Turkish and Middle Eastern desserts, rice dishes and meats. Its whole, dried seeds are sprinkled over hummus and salads. In north India, crushed or ground seeds balance the fiery flavors of chutneys, pakora (deep-fried fritters made of ground chickpeas) fillings, vegetables, bread stuffing and legume curries.

Dried orange or tangerine peel is popular in long-simmering Chinese chicken and beef sauces, and stir-fried dishes. The Japanese add dried yuzu orange peel to sansho (Szechuan pepper), nori (dried seaweed) and sesame seed to create shichimi togarashi, a seasoning sprinkled over soups, noodles and grilled meats. Kaffir lime peel adds refreshing citrus notes to Thai, Cambodian and Balinese fish and chicken curries.

Susheela Uhl is president of Horizons Consulting Inc., a Mamaroneck, NY-based food-consulting firm, which develops ethnic, fusion and “new” American products for the U.S. and global markets. Horizons provides market trends, culinary demonstrations and presentations on ethnic foods, spices and seasonings, and technical support. Uhl can be reached via e-mail at [email protected], or by visiting www.SusheelaConsulting.com.

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