Yemen was a center of the spice trade for centuries, so it’s no surprise its residents developed a taste for exotic-flavored seasonings — which the Yemenite Jews then brought with them when they immigrated to Israel.
Cumin-accented versions of Yemenite hawaij (“what is needed”) are used in Israel in soups and as rubs for chicken and meat. I’m using it here in a marinade for grilled chicken. There is also a version of hawaij traditionally used for coffee, which provides hints of cinnamon, ginger and other flavors. I’m using it here in a baked custard featuring sweet potato and coconut milk.
For each recipe, I used certified kosher hawaij from Pereg Gourmet, which sells spices and a variety of other products in kosher and other markets and online. You can use Pereg or your preferred brand of hawaij, or see the recipes for easy substitutes.
Yemenite Grilled Chicken
- 1 Tbs. Yemenite hawaij soup spice mix (see note)
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tbs. diced onion
- 1 Tbs. minced garlic
- 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Vegetable oil for grill as needed
Combine hawaij, oil, salt, juice, onion and garlic in large bowl. Place chicken in marinade, turning to make sure the chicken is coated. Marinate for 1 to 2 hours, turning occasionally. Remove chicken. Place leftover marinade in saucepan and bring to a roiling boil.
Oil your outdoor grill, indoor grill or a grill pan. Heat to medium-high. Grill chicken, turning occasionally and brushing with heated marinade (no need to let cool) as needed until chicken is cooked.
Yemenite chicken kebabs: Cut chicken into 1½-inch chunks. Marinate. Have ready 8 to 10 long skewers. If desired, prep cherry tomatoes and chunks of onions. Thread chicken and vegetables on skewers. Boil marinade and grill as directed above.
Note: Sometimes, hawaij is labeled simply “Yemenite spices for soup” or “Israeli spices for soup.” If you can’t find it, replace with garam masala or curry powder.
Sweet Potato and Coconut Milk Spiced Brûlée
- 1 large orange-fleshed sweet potato
- 13½-oz. can regular coconut milk (do not use low fat)
- 1 tsp. hawaij spice mix for coffee (see note)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¾ cup brown sugar
Steam sweet potato until soft. Peel. Mash. Set aside 1 cup. Save remainder for another use.
Bring coconut milk to simmer on low heat in saucepan, stirring often. Add hawaij and vanilla extract and simmer, stirring, 1 minute. Let cool slightly. Stir in 1 cup mashed sweet potato. Purée in food processor or blender (working in batches ) until smooth. Return to pot.
Set a 9- to 10-inch pie pan flat inside a larger baking dish. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Boil a kettle of water.
In large bowl, whisk eggs with ¼ cup sugar until combined. Slowly drizzle coconut milk mixture into eggs, whisking the entire time. Pour into pie pan. Pull out middle oven rack slightly. Place baking dish with filled pie pan on oven rack. Carefully pour in hot water from kettle into outer baking dish until it reaches about ¾ of the way up the outside of the pie pan. Gently slide rack back into oven and close door. Bake about 50 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted in center of brûlée comes out mostly clean and the custard is set but still has some jiggle. Carefully remove baking dish with pie pan from oven. Let cool slightly. Carefully remove pie pan. Cover brûlée. Refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.
When ready to serve, sift brown sugar evenly across top of brûlée. Broil in oven until sugar is just browned (or use a kitchen torch). Serve immediately.
Note: If hawaij spice for coffee is not available, substitute pumpkin-pie spice mix.