August 10, 2006
Perunjeerakam- Fennel seed or Aniseed?
Perunjeerakam is a essential item in my pantry. If you follow the malabar mappila recipes, almost every item gets its distinct lingering taste from the perunjeerakam. Omit it and the flavor changes dramatically.
So when somebody commented that the english word for the spice is fennel and not aniseed, I had to look it up. Was I misleading in my recipes? Not to be confused with star anise, a star shaped dried spice which also has a lovely minty flavor and tastes great in Ghee Rice. It is dominant in Chinese All spice powder and recipes.
Furthermore, the local Indian grocery store had both spices sold seperately. They looked similar, aniseed being a darker olive green than the leaf green of fennel(saunf) but they smelled the same.
So what was the difference? The Wikepedia and Cooks Thesaurus say they belong to the same family but that aniseed has a stronger licorice flavor. Aniseed is mostly used in Middle eastern recipes and flat breads. Maybe, it would taste great on our naans. The aniseed oil is used in a lot of drinks and as flavoring in candy. The fennel bulbs and leaves are also used in salads and soups. So, I concluded that I use the lighter green fennel at home, but this meant that I could replace that with aniseed if I wanted to deepen the minty flavor.
The Indian recipe sites list both as saunf/Perunjeerakam but they probably mean fennel seeds.My mallu cookbooks always referred to it as aniseed too.
Any comments on this from all our foodies?