Skhug, if you will, is the Middle-Eastern version of Tabasco – only a little thicker and much more tasty. It is everywhere you look, especially if there’s hummus on the table.
Skhug (*) is one of several traditional hot pastes, that are common in Middle Eastern and North African cuisines – including the Moroccan Sahka, the Tunisian Arrisa, the Syrian/Iraqi Muhammara and others, all of which made mainly of chili peppers, garlic, and spices.
Technically, it’s Yemen and is traditionally served with Yemen foods (such as Malawach and Jachnun), but you find it practically anywhere and with all sorts of foods. It’s almost always around when there’s hummus – and the combination is sheer genious.
There’s the green schug and red schug, both of which can be anything from slightly-hot to burning-hot. It’s nothing like Tabasco or Wasabi, though. Schug is not only hot and spicy, but also have the wonderful flavor of fresh peppers and herbs. The sensation is addictive.
No more schug for you
Except for a recent redesign, Zehavi’s skhug (see photo below) hasn’t change much in the past 43 years. Not many food products survive this long, and this one is probably more popular today than it used to be four decades ago.
You can find it in almost any Israeli grocery and supermarket, usually next packaged hummus and Baba Ganouj. Until recently, it was also highly popular in the west bank, but not anymore.
There’s a Palestinian boycott over products manufactured in the Israeli settlements in the west bank, one of which is Zehavi’s shug. Personally, being in favor of a Two-state solution, but also a schug junkie, I find myself ambivalent.
A simple red Schug recipe
Schug is pretty easy to make if you have a decent food processor. This recipe is for a quantity of about 1 cup of schug, which is quite a lot for beginners. It can last up to a week in the refrigerator.
50g dry ground chillis
6-8 garlic cloves
150g coriander leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cardamom seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 teaspoons salt
Ground in a food processor, until a paste texture is reached. Add a little water/oil if needed. Store in refrigerator.
(*) or “shug”. Technically it’s “zhuk”, which is a Yemen equivalent to “ground”.