Nationalistic Herbs

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by kyheirloomer, Dec 5, 2010.

  1. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    In the giving thanks thread (http://www.cheftalk.com/forum/thread/63097/giving-thanks) I made reference to a situation with oregano. Several have PMed me for details. I won't go into exactly what happened, except to say that a participant on another site maintained that oregano is an Italo/American thing, that oregano is never used in real Italian food; and, by extension, is not really a part of Mediterannian cuisine.

    Putting aside the sheer nonsense of such a statement, I got to be thinking about herbs and national identities. While fresh herbs are an integral part of most cuisines, seems to me there are particular herbs we identify with certain cuisines. I thought it might be fun to see what pairings we can come up with. I'm not looking for a "what herbs are found in X cuisine," lists, so much as "What one herb do you most associate with X." In other words, if you took that one herb away, would the cuisine in question be recognizable as such?

    Off the top of my head I've come up with:

    Italy: Basil.

    Greece: Oregano.

    Thailand: Lemon grass.

    Mexico: Cilantro.

    Israel: Hyssop (i.e., za'taar).

    United States: Parsley.

    I thought France would be easy. Initially I told myself tarragon. But then thought, no, it's lavender, or maybe marjoram, or.....well, just proves, again, that I don't know all that much about French food.

    Anyone else got others? Or care to dispute my choices?
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2010
  2. french fries

    french fries

    Messages:
    5,243
    Likes Received:
    339
    Exp:
    At home cook
    I believe the "problem" with France is that we use tons of different herbs, really, so pinning down a single one to associate with French cuisine would be tough. But at the top of my head, I would say that:

    Curly Parsley

    Thyme

    Chives

    Bay leaves

    ... would be the few ones I would put at the top of the list. But we use many, many more, depending on your region. For example, in my region, monks make a liquor called Chartreuse with 130 different herbs. Or, when I visit my mum or my sister, they always pick up a bunch of wild herbs, look them up in books and use them in their cooking. Usually stuff I have never even heard of before.

    I'm not sure why Tarragon is so heavily associated with French cuisine. Personally I've never seen it used in France, I discovered it in the U.S. I asked my wife, and she's never seen it used in her family either. What we do see everywhere in France is Tarragon-mustard. Lavender is something we put in little sachets to perfume closets, but not in food. I believe that's a fine-dining-trendy-fashion-hip thing, never seen it used in cooking myself either except once in a fancy restaurant here in the U.S. Marjoram we use, Savory too, Chervil, etc... but not anywhere close to the same amount/frequency as the four I listed above.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2010
  3. ishbel

    ishbel

    Messages:
    3,147
    Likes Received:
    40
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    In the UK we use lots of sage/thyme/rosemary/savory.  Curly leafed parsley used to be more favoured than the French stuff - but nowadays is less popular (IMO)
     
  4. dc sunshine

    dc sunshine

    Messages:
    2,753
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Other
    It's hard to pin down any particular herb for Australia.  But, to input something, I have the following:

    Chinese:  Garlic

    Thai: Lemongrass

    Korea: Kimchee (sp?) - not exactly sure if thhis is a herb as such, but is very widely used

    Spain: Paprika

    England/G.B.: Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme ( I feel a song coming on here /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif)
     
  5. french fries

    french fries

    Messages:
    5,243
    Likes Received:
    339
    Exp:
    At home cook
    Ishbel, I wonder if you meant "than the Italian stuff" maybe? Curly parsley is the French stuff. But I agree with you that the Italian (aka flat) parsley is much more popular. They have different flavors, the flat one is more subtle.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2010
  6. bughut

    bughut

    Messages:
    1,730
    Likes Received:
    28
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Scandanavia - Dill - Can't imagine gravadlax without it.

    India - Cilantro (coriander) and Methi (the herb grown from fenugreek) How could you finish a dish without it, or add that important, uniquely aromatic flavour

    Curry leaves too in south Indian dishes would be blander without them fried with spices to temper the dish at the end of the cooking

    Thailand- Thai basil Tom yum soup and so much else needs a sprig of it and coriander to sprinkle in as you eat it. Our local Thai restaurant couldnt get any when the ash cloud disrupted flights this year. Flavour was also dramatically disrupted.

    Middle east,Turkey, Lebanon etc (sorry to generalise) - Mint! Food would neverbe the same again
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010
  7. teamfat

    teamfat

    Messages:
    4,042
    Likes Received:
    458
    Exp:
    I Just Like Food
    United States: Parsley.

    Is ketchup considered an herb :rolleyes:

    mjb.
     
  8. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    Sunshine, I wouldn't consider Kimchee to be an herb. It's a finished dish, with many ingredients including veggies, herbs, and spices. To count it, we'd have to consider all the pickles and relishes of the world.

    Personally, I think of paprika as a spice, rather than an herb. But that's just me. I
     
  9. tylerm713

    tylerm713

    Messages:
    477
    Likes Received:
    35
    Exp:
    I Just Like Food
    Brazil: lemongrass and cilantro are the two that come to mind

    I hope you don't mind me breaking the rules a bit, but in Louisiana I would say it would be green onions and thyme.
     
  10. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    I'm not sure why Tarragon is so heavily associated with French cuisine.

    Well, right off the top of my head, Sauce Bernaise comes to mind. Isn't that a classic French preparation?
     
  11. french fries

    french fries

    Messages:
    5,243
    Likes Received:
    339
    Exp:
    At home cook
    Yes it is. Do you think that is the reason why people often associate Tarragon with French cuisine? Odd. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/confused.gif
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010
  12. dc sunshine

    dc sunshine

    Messages:
    2,753
    Likes Received:
    16
    Exp:
    Other
    Fair comment on the Kimchee - it just sprang to mind as such a major ingredient as opposed to an herb..  I like this thread to see different people's perspectives on what is the prime herb which represents a country/area.

    True, paprika is not an herb, but it's just so characteristic in the cuisine my fingers typed it before I could think about it :)

    Anyone got one for Japan?
     
  13. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

    Messages:
    6,367
    Likes Received:
    129
    Exp:
    Food Writer
    That could be it exactly, French Fries.

    Like I say, I don't know all that much about French food. Just went through Jean-Pierre Challet's One Pot French, which is the only French cookbook I have handy. Turns out tarragon is used surprisingly little. Only three of his dishes untilize it at all.

    Based on his recipes, however, I would have to say the most-used herb in French cooking actually is thyme. Chervil is another popular one, even more so than parsley.

    The French section of International Cuisine doesn't include tarragon in any of the recipes. But seems to support the notion that thyme is the most used herb.

    Next I turned to Joanne Weir's From Tapas to Meze, which deals only with southern France. Again, not one use of tarragon. Thyme seems to remain #1, with parsley running it a close second. Many of her recipes call for savory as well, far more than I would have imagined.

    If we stretch a point, and include aromatics as herbs, as Tyler did with Louisiana cooking, then shallots would be, hands-down, France's most popular herb.

    Kind of ironic that so many of us associate tarragon with French cooking when, in fact, it's as you say: tarragon is hardly used at all. Go figure!
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010
  14. tylerm713

    tylerm713

    Messages:
    477
    Likes Received:
    35
    Exp:
    I Just Like Food
    I agree that the bulb of green onions, scallions, shallots, etc. wouldn't be considered an herb, but when I refer to green onions, I am only referring to green onion tops. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the tops would be considered an herb just like chives, right?

     
     
  15. butzy

    butzy

    Messages:
    1,715
    Likes Received:
    409
    Exp:
    Owner/Operator
    Japan -> Wasabi
     
  16. french fries

    french fries

    Messages:
    5,243
    Likes Received:
    339
    Exp:
    At home cook
    Thyme and parsley for sure. Chervil I wouldn't rank anywhere near as high, in fact, we never had it when I grew up. I asked my wife which herbs she thinks represent French cooking and she said "Herbes de Provence" right away. I told her I didn't think that counted as an herb, being a mix of herbs, and she replied "Thyme, curly parsley" right away. Then after a bit of thought, "chives". She wasn't so sure about the bay leaves.

    Shallots is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with. I always have them in my pantry. I grew up with them.
     
  17. byrdie

    byrdie

    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    When I was in Korea cilantro was referred to as 'Chinese parsley', and thus I relate to Chinese cooking more than any other.

    I don't know if it is the most popular herb but I've never used chervil in any other cuisines than French. So that gets my vote.

    Marijuana is a popular "medicinal" herb in many countries, but we're talking about culinary point of view, aren't we? /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif   It's very tough to pick just one herb for each country.

    I agree that green onion can be counted as an herb for it's frequent use as an herb.
     
  18. french fries

    french fries

    Messages:
    5,243
    Likes Received:
    339
    Exp:
    At home cook
    Interesting. In France some call cilantro "Arabic parsley". It's also used a lot in Northern Africa, Mexico, East Asia...
    You know, I think for both Chervil and Tarragon, they are probably known as typically French because that's the one of the only cuisines where they're used? 
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010
  19. siduri

    siduri

    Messages:
    3,599
    Likes Received:
    46
    Exp:
    At home cook
    Italy might as well be a collection of different countries as far as cuisine goes, but i'd say

    parsley

    rosemary (on certain foods - potatoes, white pizza, roasts)

    basil

    origano (certain regions, i think mainly southern)

    sage (tuscany for sure, maybe others)

    Notable for its total absence, dill. 

    why, i don;t know.  It's used from scandinavia to greece, but seems to skip over italy

    In france, Isn;t lavender just used in provence?  in some mixtures of provencal herbs?

    And also tarragon, may that not be also a regionally used herb? 
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010
  20. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

    Messages:
    7,404
    Likes Received:
    633
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Although I do agree that oregano is widely accepted as the greek herb there are others that are just as dominant.  Mint, dill, bay, and parsley especially.  There are some herbs that we hardly use at all like rosemary, sage, marjoram, tarragon and I'm not sure why considering that you can find them growing like weeds everywhere you look.  I have learned to incorporate these in my cooking though so some of us are learning.

    I think traditions have their place.  But when they limit your ability to expand your food preparations then traditions just get in the way.  I don't like being told by other greeks that "we don put rozmary in the lamp!" because guess what, I'm putting it in there anyway and if that makes it a non-greek dish then so be it.  Herbs should not be a religion!  They're super super healthy and flavorful and there's room for them all.

    Except cilantro which is evil.