Grains of Paradise
Grains of Paradise | Photo by: Apartment Therapy
The first time I heard about Grains of Paradise was last year when I watched a Thai TV program about food (of course!). The host interviewed a chef who mentioned Grains of Paradise. He didn't talked about it in detail; just said that they were hard to find in Thailand. I wondered what they were, but then totally forgot to do a research about them.
Couple weeks ago I bought a peppercorn plant and did some research about how to take care of it properly. I accidentally stumbled on a related article about Grains of Paradise. This time I dove into it because I didn't want it to slip my mind again. After learning more about this interesting spice, I ordered some to try in one of my recipes. My first attempt was Shrimp Clay Pot. I substituted Grains of Paradise for black pepper. The sweet and spicy but buttery taste, with a hint of citrus and cardamom is incomparably better than black pepper.
Some people have asked me what they are and where to get them. Let me give you more details about this spice. Grains of Paradise are the seeds from a ginger relative plants, Aframomum melegueta, a native plant to West Africa. Sometimes these grains are called alligator pepper, guinea pepper, melegueta pepper or ossame.
Aframomum melegueta | Photo by: François Guibert
Fruit pods of Aframomum melegueta | Photo by: Inna Moody
Grains of Paradise can be used in cooking and baking however typically you need to grind them first. I use a small spice mortar and pestle. Toasting them before grinding is not a bad idea, since it helps to boost the flavors and aromas. If you are a Moroccan cuisine fan, you might have tried them already; they are a component of Ras El Hanout. Try them on your favorite recipe and share with me the result.