Authentic Cinnamon? Cassia or Ceylon Cinnamon?

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Many types of Cinnamon are available in the market, which one is the real one we are using? Most frequent question after we have learned about the varieties of Cinnamon and the health concern about “coumarin” contain in Cinnamon. “Coumarin” is a kind of natural chemical substance comes with the plant. Here, I believe that everybody can search the net; it is easy!

Many years ago, the Indonesian Cinnamon dominated the whole local market, and not many people know about Ceylon Cinnamon. The real cinnamon for everyone is Cassia Cinnamon, our household taste in daily cooking. The Ceylon Cinnamon from Sri Lanka is a newcomer. People valued it as another kind of cinnamon, less pungent, expensive and doubtful about its potential. I thought I had a wrong starting point. I was in a state of selling shoes at a place where people is barefoot, different knowledge and unfit to local custom, but I believe it was a great business opportunity.

My first encounter about Ceylon Cinnamon had changed my life. I had a deep feeling about Ceylon Cinnamon, and I always use Cinnamon as my opening topic when I do a sales talk. However, I remembered one occasion that I was so embarrassed where I was trying to show my best Ceylon Cinnamon to a France Chef, many years ago. Unexpectedly, she turned down my conversation because she could not accept the smell of cinnamon. No matter it was Cassia or Ceylon. I made another appointment and cleared out all my cinnamon from my spice bag before the next meeting. I learned that Ceylon Cinnamon is my personal preference spice, but not the absolute for others.

The point I would like to highlight is “Authentic” flavour. The value originally used by the people. The “Original Flavour”. The selected ingredients or method of cooking which forms a genuine character. In other words, “Authentic” is a part of people living pattern. The way we eat and our lifestyle. Some people may have a different experience and changed the original taste. Therefore, the flavour is a complexity of living. It is beyond our ordinary senses, a creation of many things.

Now, I have majority customers use Ceylon Cinnamon because it is real, sweeter aroma, good for health and it is the diabetic medicine from natural remedies. So, my clients like the Cinnamon? Do they change their original eating behaviour?

Authentic cinnamon is not the important matter because we value the facts in reality. The aroma and taste of Cinnamon are the secondary consideration. The flavour differences are strictly the cooking concerns.

Last, before I put an end to my Cinnamon topic, I share my real life experience with you. I like Cinnamon because it smells good and comfortable. I use it in my cooking recipes. My favourite masala tea with Ceylon Cinnamon. Try to love spices and discover the natural flavour. Search for your spice starter.

Cinnamon Roasted Pumpkin

1 medium pumpkin and sliced into pieces with skin
2 tsp of Ceylon Cinnamon Grounded
1 tbsp of Oregano (Optional selection rosemary and thyme)
1 tsp of Onion Ground
1 tsp of Garlic Ground
3 tsp of Black Pepper Coarse
4 tbsp cooking oil
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste (Optional)

1) Mix all ingredients in a bowl and rub on pumpkin slices.
2) Place the pumpkin slices on baking tray, bake it in the preheated
200°c oven about 30 minutes.

I like this recipe because the preparation is easy. The fun of this recipe is the twist and match combination of oregano, rosemary and thyme.

 

Cinnamon, My Inspiration

 

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If we search “Cinnamon” on the internet, we will find tonnes of cinnamon related information. Many stories inspired by Cinnamon, trades, foods, drinks, lifestyle, memories, health, history &, etc.

My Cinnamon story began from Sri Lanka; my very first spice guru who brought me into spices business. Sometimes, I thought that “Cinnamon” naturally is given a miracle power. An ordinary tree that we have used it since 2500 years ago.

My first encounter about Cinnamon is not because of its medical benefits, without any idea about Cinnamon; I discovered that it smells comfortable and relief, I believed the sweet flavour caught me in the first place. I remembered that my wife and I were on the way to down south of Sri Lanka. We took a rest halfway because of motion sickness. We spotted some workers were working on some wood craftings. The wood smelled so good that I forgot I was motion sickness. I never thought that was Cinnamon. Maybe it cured my dizziness. That was my first experience about Cinnamon.

The other thing amazed me was the process of making the quills, it is so labour intensive. I could not believe that Cinnamon stick must be hand crafted. My spice journey started here. I would like to say that was a fantastic coincidence.

Pineapple Chicken

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300g Chicken breast/pieces
2 tsp of Chinese Five Spice
3 whole Star Anise
1/2 cup of water
3 tbsp of cooking oil
400g of cubed pineapple
3 cloves of minced garlic
Salt and sugar to taste
Chili flakes or Parsley for garnishing

  1. Rub the chicken meat with 1 tbsp of cooking oil and marinate with 2 tsp of Chinese Five Spice, add salt to taste.
  2. Heat up a frying pan with 2 tbsp of cooking oil and pan fry the chicken breast until light brown.
  3. Add in minced garlic, cubed pineapple and star anise, saute 3 minutes.
  4. Add in 1/2 cup of water and cook until the meat and pineapple are tender. Add salt and sugar to taste.
  5. Garnish with chili flakes or parsley, serve with white rice.

Star Anise, The Chinese Spice

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It is a Chinese spice and representing the aromatic flavour of Chinese cuisine. Naturally, it is a flower pod which dried under the hot sun before it has fully ripened. The unique and beautiful spice, It shapes like the star, a complete eight horns stretch out from the centre. Each carpel carries a seed inside, light brown oval shape. The profile of Star Anise is a combination of fennel and anise, sweet aromatic. It is an essential flavour in all Chinese kitchen.

The next idea came to my mind is Chinese Five Spice, the lovely spice mix. The traditional spice blends in our modern cuisine. Star Anise plays a significant aroma in Chinese Five Spice. Without Star Anise, Chinese Five Spice will never be its original. That is the reason I said it is “The Chinese Spice”. We can get it easily in a general grocery shop nowadays. Many difference type of branding and authentication, quite a headache sometimes to select the best Chinese Five Spice.

Now, I blend my spice mix. Along the mixing quest, I discovered many possibilities of doing it. This spice blend has a combination of five basic grounded spices, Cinnamon, Star Anise, Cloves, Fennel and Szechuan pepper. Some versions are more than five type of spices, depending on personal preference, nutmeg, mace and white pepper. All these are pairing amazingly to increase the flavour complexity, but I prefer to the original five.

When I blend the Chinese Five Spice, I always remembered my taste of childhood, my favourite dish, “Pineapple chicken”. My grandmother used to plug a juicy pineapple from the house backyard and cooked with the leftover chicken. I was trying to resemble that recipe quite a few times, but the outcome was not the one I remembered.

Finally, I successfully cooked the dish with an added Star Anise and Chinese Five Spice. Leftover chicken marinated with Chinese Five Spice and 2-3 pods Star Anise add into cooking. The flavour of Pineapple Chicken twisted beyond my words can describe, a mouth-watering dish, serve with white rice.

This Chinese New Year comes early. I believe that Star Anise will be the magic spice again in many Chinese kitchens, the secret ingredient! I wish to share some of my records about the Star Anise.

How to select the right Star Anise?

The best Star Anise is light brown to dark brown. 8 carpels with a seed inside each. Size in between 2-3cm. The best harvest is the autumn crops. As far as my search until now, natural treated Vietnamese Star Anise is the best. Good spices require a proper care harvest and handling so that the aromatic property is reserved.

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Whole Pod – Vietnamese Star Anise
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Natural Dried Star Anise

In the local market, we will always get the lower quality. I manage to differentiate the grade of Star Anise after many years of experience in spice trading. I strongly advise not to use this category. It is unbelievable cheap. The colour is abnormal. It smells stinky. At least a seed must be inside one of the pods. If you can not find a single seed, the Star Anise is unadulterated.

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Lower Grade Star Anise

Furthermore, the Star Anise will not turn into an unacceptable black colour; it only happens if bad harvest, the crops went bad or not properly handled. If we are looking for Star Anise grounded, purchase from your trusted supplier. The untrusted source is risky. We do not know the purity and grade. Try to avoid from the unknown seller.

 

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Local Market Star Anise

 

My spice checklist, I will check the spices from a few parts, physical appearance, aroma, taste and flavour. I am pretty sure that you will able to find out the different. Enjoy the spices adventure! I wish that my notes are helpful to you or whoever has an interest in cooking and spices.