Latin and Asian dishes are two very different cuisines. While Asians are big on fishes and vegetables; Mexicans, on the other hand, are big on meats. However different they are in so many ways, some of their dishes use the same ingredients; and these are spices. Both cultures actually love to sprinkle their food with spices to serve an appetizing meal.
One of the most common spices these two cultures use is Saffron. Saffron is actually a dried yellow stigma of a small flower called purple crocus. This flower only provides 3 stigmas that should be carefully picked and dried; making it very labor-intensive. It actually takes 225,000 stigmas in order to produce a pound of saffron; thus, making it the world’s most expensive spice. Fortunately, it only takes a pinch of this spice to make a colorful and flavorful dish.
An inexpensive alternative to Saffron is the Turmeric spice, otherwise known as the “poor man’s saffron”. You can buy ground turmeric or the whole seeds for grinding. Although it costs much less, it also yields the bright yellow coloring that the saffron gives to the dishes. However, its flavor is bland with a bit of earthiness. It also tastes bitter when consumed in larger amounts.
Another spice common to them is Cumin, which is an orange colored spice. It gives an earthy sweetness with the slightest hint of bitterness. It is sold in the market whole or ground and in three different colors: amber, white, or black. The most common of the three is amber; however, black has the most complex flavor.
Cayenne pepper is also used in both Latin and Asian dishes since it is readily available everywhere. It is deep red color and it is a spicy mixture of capsicum pepper pods and seeds. It is used in its flesh, dried, or powdered forms. Because of its spicy flavor, it is one of the main ingredients in various hot sauces, most especially those that use vinegar as a preservative.
Lastly, both cultures use paprika in some of their spicy dishes. Paprika is usually mistaken for cayenne pepper primarily because of its bright red color and its spicy taste. High quality paprika can be imported from Spain or from Latin America. However, there are also domestic varieties available in the groceries; but, they will only give out less flavorful taste. It is available in ground form and it should be stored properly to maintain its flavor.