Fennel, saunf, badian, finocchio, fenouil, fenchel, hinojo, marathon, barisaunf, madhurika, adas, wooi heung, whatever you wish to call it here 'tis:
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a hardy perennial herb belonging to the carrot, parsley, and celery family. It features feathery leaves, tiny yellow flowers, and glaucous green hollow stems. Fennel prefers sandy, well drained soils and a moderate climates as found in it's native habitat along the shores of the Mediterranean. Fennel is also considered an invasive pest in my native California and you will often see it growing wild along the sandy shoulders of highways and roads.
All parts of the fennel plant are edible, including the bulbous roots, strongly flavored leaves, and it's seed like fruits. The licorice-like flavor of flavor of fennel comes from the aromatic compound "anethole." Anethole is the same terpenoid responsible for the unique flavor of anise and star anise, hence the similar aroma and taste. Fennel tends to be a bit milder in licorice flavor than anise or star anise.
Fennel seeds' warm, aromatic, licorice-y, and sweet notes are a great pairing with the gamy flavor of the mutton or goat so favored in Desi cuisines. Surprisingly to me fennel seeds also add an interesting punch to blander dishes such as dals too. The flavor of fennel seed tends to grow upon cooking, if not judiciously used fennel's bold flavor can overtake an entire dish.
"Mukwhas" is a breath freshener and digestive aid commonly served after meals in Desi countries. I'm sure any Westerners whom have ever been to an Indian restaurant will be familiar with it. Fennel seeds both dry roasted and with colorful sugar or silvered coatings are usually the main ingredient in all the various blends of mukwhas. Mukwhas is derived from the Hindi and Urdu words "mukh" meaning mouth and "vas" meaning smell. Other mukwhas blends may also include rock sugar, date sugar, coconut shavings, sesame seeds, rose petals, tamarind leaves, cashews, salt, turmeric, coriander seeds, peanuts and cashews.
Dried fennel seeds are light green when fresh and slowly age to a dull grey. For culinary usage always choose the greenest fennel seeds you can find for the best flavor.
An interesting aside:
I have been notified that I have been nominated for the "Best Food Blog" AND "Best New Blog" awards on the nepaliaustralian blog so get on over there and vote for my blog if you choose at:
Be sure to check out all the other amazing blogs in all the different categories and vote for all your favorites!!! Winners will be announced in May.