This is my version of this traditional Yemenite sauce, from my book Mediterranean Hot and Spicy.
Zhug was brought to Israel by Yemenite Jews and is now the hot condiment of choice in Israel. You will find zhug (also called z'houg) made with green or red chiles in falafel stands and in the kebab restaurants that serve shawarma—vertically skewered and roasted pieces of meat—accompanied by many different salads, spreads, relishes, and freshly baked pita bread. Zhug is made with fresh chiles, garlic, coriander, cardamom, and other spices. It is usually very hot, so you should start with a small amount. Mixed with soaked and ground fenugreek, it becomes hilbe. I prefer to make my zhug with green chiles, to distinguish it from the other red hot sauces of the Eastern Mediterranean.
You can add a little zhug to soups, pasta, and bean dishes, besides serving it as a condiment with falafel or any fried vegetable slices. To make a delicious low-fat sauce or dip for vegetables, mix it with reduced or nonfat Greek yogurt.
Makes about 1 1/4 cup
• 10 to 14 fresh green chiles or jalapeños, seeded if you like and coarsely chopped
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 6 to 8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground caraway seeds
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom
• 1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
• 1/2 cup packed parsley leaves
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 2 to 4 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Place the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender and pulse several times, until you get a smooth paste. You will have to scrape down all the bits and pieces that stick to the sides of the bowl.
Pack in a jar and store in the refrigerator. Zhug will keep for one to two weeks. You can also freeze it, but it will lose some of its garlicky flavor.
To read Aglaia's story about fenugreek and its use in a traditional paste that often accompanies zhug, click here.