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Red Skhug: a Recipe and a Story

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.

Yaman Schug, green and red
Skhug, specifically, is the most common in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

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”.

11 Comments on Red Skhug: a Recipe and a Story

  1. can’t wait to try it : ) interesting how food and politics can be so interwoven.

  2. Harry Goldin // January 31, 2011 at 5:15 am // Reply

    I think I have mastered making tasty, smooth humous. I recently made skhug and ate it with the humous. The skhug overwhelmed the humous and hid the delicate flavor I have worked so hard to achieve. It reminds me of a man in a gourmet restaurant who asks for ketchup.

  3. Zhug is the key to hummus happiness! I am experimenting with exotic fresh and dried chile peppers. Zhug must have been a result of winter!

  4. shmuela padnos // May 25, 2011 at 1:26 am // Reply

    yes this i like gold for me i love it and fondly remember eating it in israel where i got it in bait vegan neighborhood near my yeshiva. yes it is kosher

  5. Helen in CA // June 4, 2013 at 4:59 am // Reply

    What kind of “dry ground chillis”?

    Really would like to try this… serve like the photo w/ the green skhug I’ve made.

  6. Exactly what are dry ground chilies? Like chili flakes in the US. Is it the same as sha’ata?

  7. some of the ingredients are in tablespoons/teaspoons. two of the ingredients are in grams. 50 grams of dry ground chillis and 150 grams coriander leaves. what is grams converted to tablespoons or cups?

  8. Ken J. Gertner // April 13, 2014 at 1:01 pm // Reply

    This sounds marvelous canיt wait to make it. Ken

  9. are the coriander leaves dry or fresh?

  10. Hey! I’ve tried this recipe today and the result is very green. Did I make something wrong? Did you separate the green coriander leaves from the other ingredients, because it looks so on the picture. Thanks a lot!

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