Showing posts with label flavor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label flavor. Show all posts

Feb 1, 2016

Ingredients: Let's All Reek With Fenugreek!

Fenugreek, methi or, samudra methi is an annual herb which is commonly featured in dishes of the Indian Subcontinent.  It is a member of the plant family Fabaceae, and of the genus and species Trigonella foenum-graecum. It's seeds are used as a spice while the plant is used in fresh and dried form as an herb.

Fenugreek or methi seeds
Fenugreek/methi can be used as a spice in the form of it's seeds. The square shaped yellow seeds can be utilized whole or powdered in pickles/achaari, dals, sambar, vegetable dishes, curries, and the traditional spice mixes of the various cuisines of South Asia. Dry roasting or fryingthe seeds mellows their pungent flavor a bit, but scorching them results in a strong, bitter flavor. Use them sparingly, for they are quite powerful in flavor.

The leaves of fenugreek look a bit like pea or vetch leaves.
Understandable, as fenugreek is also in the Fabaceae family.
Fenugreek/methi can be used in fresh or dried form as an herb. Fresh fenugreek/methi leaves are commonly sold at markets across the Subcontinent in bundles with the roots still attached. They feature in many curries and flatbreads also. The fresh leaves are much milder in flavor than the seeds. You'll often see fenugreek/methi growing wild in clumps near water where the soil is sandy across South Asia. The leaves are very rich in calcium and also make excellent cattle fodder. The sprouted seeds of fenugreek/methi can also be used in salads.
Dried fenugreek leaves are called kasoori methi.
The dried leaves of fenugreek are called kasoori methi in Hindi and are used in curries also. The dried leaves much stronger and pungent in flavor than the fresh leaves and can quickly overpower a dish if not used judiciously.

One of the many brands of dried fenugreek leaves available in India.

The flavor and scent of fenugreek/methi in all it's forms is very unique and unusual.
 It's flavor has been described as being a combination of celery, fennel, and maple syrup. It also has a very earthy and rather rank musty, fusty note.
Sotolon, 3-Hydroxy-4,5-dimethylfuran-2(5H)-one
(Also called caramel furanone, sugar lactone, fenugreek lactone)


Sotolon is the powerful aroma compound responsible for fenugreek/methi's distinctive fragrance and flavor. Sotolon is also the major aroma and flavor component of artificial maple syrup, the herb lovage, molasses, aged rum, aged sake, white wine, flor sherry, and toasted tobacco. High concentrations of sotolon result in the musty taste present in curries and pickles/achaari. At lower concentrations the flavor and scent of fenugreek/methi presents as a pleasant caramel or maple syrup note. Sotolon passes through the human body unchanged and is excreted in sweat and urine. Anyone consuming quite a bit of fenugreek/methi will thus reek of sotolon. I've often wondered if sotolon is the "curry smell" that many non Desi persons find objectionable. I've also wondered if sotolon is the "mysterious" note of "honey and decay" in Guerlain's famed perfume Djedi.  It would certainly be mysterious and unfamiliar to most Western palates. At any rate, go easy on the fenugreek/methi in all it's forms when cooking for Westerners whom are new to Desi cuisines.

Guerlain's Djedi

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