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Mexican foodie 101: cumin

Known for its warm tones and pungent aroma, cumin has endeared itself to the palates of many adoring Mexican foodies. Second only to black pepper, cumin holds the distinction of being the second most popular spice on the planet. Often recognized in many Tex-Mex and Central American dishes, this member of the parsley family is also a staple in the preparation of some of Mexico’s finest dried chile sauces.

Along with onion and garlic, cumin plays a vital role in the final luxurious balance that is a well-made dried chile sauce. Used in simple sauces for tacos, or layered with cinnamon and oregano to round out the proper dressing of a more elaborate pork or beef dish, cumin is appreciated for its bold presence.

Available in both ground and whole seed forms, most serious chefs of Mexican cuisine prefer to use it whole so as to better control both freshness and quantity. Generous in flavor, cumin contributes both a spicy pungent and toasty sweetness to the traditional Mexican showcase favorites, and is valued for its irreplaceable contribution to the culinary world.

Cumin in Chicago:

Cumin is widely available in practically every Mexican grocer in the Chicagoland area. Perhaps more commonly found in the ground form, whole cumin seeds are also sold in small cellophane packages. These are typically located, along with a wide variety of other spices and dried chiles, in the Hispanic foods section of the larger chain stores such as Food 4 Less and Meijer.

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