Recipe: Spice up your smoothie
Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I’m taking with me when I go. —Erma Bombeck
I also have a selection of spices and flavor enhancers in the rack. There are the basics such as salt, black pepper and garlic as well as more exotic fare such as the Indian blend garam marsala and sesame seeds. If I have to be buried with one spice out of my collection, it would be my current favorite, Chinese five-spice powder.
There’s no standard definition of the Chinese five-spice blend. Some have more then five ingredients. Many include fennel, clove, cinnamon, star anise and ginger. Others add nutmeg, Szechuan peppercorns and licorice.
The blend is supposed to encompass all five basic tastes – bitter, salty, sour, sweet and savory (a.k.a. umami). Although the roots of this spice combination are not Korean, many of these spices also are key to the country’s cuisine, thanks to long-standing cross-cultural exchanges betweens Koreans and Chinese over the past 2000 years or so.
Since Chinese five-spice powder is a combination of all five tastes, cooks and chefs are able to deftly blend it with beef, lamb, vegetables, grains and legumes. However, some foods are relatively spice-free: fruits and dairy products, particularly smoothies, a drink that combines fruit and dairy.
Smoothies started as an American mixture of fresh and frozen fruit, fruit juice and ice. Later variations of the drink incorporated yoghurt or soy milk, vitamin supplements and even wheat grass. Promoted as quick, healthful meal replacements, smoothies became synonymous with California’s experimental yet fast-paced culture.
The beverage has gone international with smoothie bars located in most major cities around the world.
South Korea has two of America’s most popular smoothie restaurants: Smoothie King, a Louisiana-based chain, has more than 40 locations in the country. Jamba Juice, a company based in Northern California, established a foothold in Korea at Incheon’s airport and now has five locations in Seoul and Gyeonggi-do, including one near Korea’s Supreme Court building. Both chains offer concoctions and supplements in Korea not found in their American counterparts.
Korea also has home-grown smoothie chains, such as Fresh King. Smoothies are a good fit with Korea’s food=well-being meme and its fast-paced “ppali-ppali” (빨리-빨리) culture.
Inspired by Spice Sherpa, I embarked on a smoothie spice mission.
Smoothies are made to be embellished. You don’t need an overwhelming dousing of spices, just a little pinch here and there. —from Spice Sherpa‘s “3 Ways to Have Spices for Breakfast: 1 indulgence, 1 blend, and 1 surprise”
I tested the theory with a Peanut Butter Moo’d smoothie from a Jamba Juice counter in a nearby grocery store. I spiked the chocolate, banana and peanut butter combo with about two teaspoons of Chinese five-spice.
|Customization can make a corporate smoothie recipe your own. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)|
It took some effort to stir the powder into the 16-ounce cup using the flimsy supplied plastic straw they gave me. The small amount provided just enough flavor without overwhelming the primary smoothie ingredients.
Peanut butter, vanilla and strawberries are commonly paired with chocolate. Spicy chili, such as Mexican chocolate, is also becoming popular. [See a related post on innovative chocolate pairings, “Review: Jade Chocolate’s confections promote free flavor love.”]
Here are a few other Koreafornian-style ideas for flavor enhancements to take along on your next trip to the smoothie counter or to make your own at home:
- Cinnamon, allspice and vanilla for chocolate smoothies.
- Powder pinches of cayenne and baker’s chocolate for a Mexican-style chocolate smoothie (spicy and bittersweet).
- Black pepper and a teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar for strawberry smoothies.
- Peppermint for chocolate smoothies.
- Garam masala for tropical fruit– or coconut milk–based smoothies.
- Lime juice and cilantro for orange juice–based smoothies or iced fruit drinks.