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Mad about saffron

By Mike Peters | China Daily | Updated: 2015-04-30 08:15

Mad about saffron

Botanical evidence suggests saffron originated in Greece, where the earliest related species appear in this Minoan fresco of saffron gatherers that dates from 1500 BC.[Photo provided to China Daily]

In restaurants like Sharzhad in Esfahan or Persepolis in Beijing, Iranian chefs convert their treasured saffron into jewel-like morsels of yellow rice, fragrant teas and glowing golden desserts. In the US, a group of entrepreneurial military veterans have started Rumi Spice, an online shop that supports independent saffron growers in war-torn Afghanistan. In Calgary, Canada, the Silk Road Spice Merchant has similarly embraced the spirit of the ancient traders with a website rich with information and quality spices for sale since 2008.

"Fresh saffron has a distinctive earthy smell and flavor and imparts a bright orange color to food," say co-owners Kelci Hind and Colin Leach on the website, warning that imitations like safflower petals look similar but are far cheaper and almost tasteless. "Saffron is a characteristic ingredient for a number of traditional dishes like bouillabaisse and paella, as well as many risottos. Try adding a few threads to basmati rice with Indian dishes and turn your rice a beautiful golden color.

"When adding saffron to a dish," they advise, "add it to a bit of liquid first to draw out the color, or grind to a powder if no liquid is being used. Adding saffron early in the cooking process gives more color; adding late gives more flavor."

About this series

China Daily is featuring different cuisines from countries along the Silk Road every Thursday.


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