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Homemade Zhug (Skhug) Recipe
How do you pronounce סחוג? In modern Israeli Hebrew, it's pronounced s-kh-oog, as one syllable (the kh sound is the guttural consonant at the end of the Scottish word loch, and the oo rhymes with shoe, not wood). In Yemen, from where this delicious condiment hails, it's called: سحوق (pronounced sakhawak).
One of the most popular forms of casual dining in Israel is the falafel stand. For about 15 shekels (about $4) and in about three minutes, you can get a pita stuffed with falafel (fried garbanzo mash), pickled cabbage, hummus, tahini, and just a touch of an unassuming sauce called zhug (skhug), סחוג in Hebrew. Usually, zhug is served in a small dish with a spoon, so you can decide how spicy you'd like your falafel pita to be. Smear a thin layer across the inside of the pita, and your palate will glow. Spread a teaspoon or more, and you might have a psychedelic experience.
The most popular hot sauce in Israel, zhug is served with just about everything, especially with foods with origins in the Middle East. Hilbeh (fenugreek seed porridge) usually comes with a dollop of it. It always accompanies Middle Eastern salads like khtsilim pikanti (spicy eggplant), hummus, and roasted root vegetables, and it's also a favorite with fish, game, and meat dishes, such as shawarma, as well.
While it's not easy to find zhug outside Israel, it's also not very difficult to make. You can make a batch of it in about half an hour, and it keeps nicely in the refrigerator for several weeks.
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|Prep time||Ready in||Yields|
1 1/2 cups (approx. 200 grams)
- 3 bunches cilantro (fresh coriander), washed and spun dry
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 small hot red peppers, stems removed
- 1 lime
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) cardamom, ground
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) cumin, ground
- 1 teaspoon (6 grams) salt
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) pepper, ground
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
- Use a food processor, blender, or meat grinder to shred the cilantro.
- Add the juice of 1 lime and the 1/2 cup of olive oil and pulse into a green paste.
- Add the garlic and pulse until incorporated.
- Add the red chilis and pulse until rendered into small red flecks in a sea of bright green. It's okay if there are visible seeds.
- Add the cardamom, cumin, salt, and pepper, and blend until uniform.
Yes, it really is that simple! Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks or for up to 6 months in the freezer.
Zhug is traditionally served with falafel, shawarma, and hilbeh, as well as just about anything else Israelis eat where a dash of piquance is desired. However, you can also add it to:
- pilafs and other rice dishes
- chicken and game
- steak, as a hotter alternative to chimichurri