The fresh aroma of cilantro, robust flavor of garlic, and stinging hot pepper are combined together with spices to create this perfect spicy condiment. Z’houg is the Yemenite version of hot sauce, although it is not exactly a sauce, but rather a paste. It has so much character. Some people even eat it on its own straight from the spoon. My grandfather used to fill a small bowl with Z’houg and eat scallions dipped in it. You can add Z’houg to anything just like you would use any other hot sauce. But there are some dishes that call specifically for Z’houg to compliment them, such as Jachnoun.
You can buy ready-made z’houg in kosher or in Middle Eastern grocery stores (in the refrigerators) or make it at home. Like many ethnic foods, Z’houg has many variations depending on the region, the cook, and so on. The z’houg recipe brought here was passed down to my mother by my Yemenite grandfather (her father), and I learned it from her. I don’t make Z’houg very often as we like to eat many different types of hot sauces. But when I make it, I make sure that I make enough to have some Z’houg in the freezer, so we never run out.
2 heads garlic, cloves peeled
5 large bunches cilantro
3 ½ oz dried red-hot chili peppers (the amount of pepper may be changed depending on their level of spiciness or your level of tolerance)
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt
Soak the peppers in boiling water for ½ hour. Discard of the water and remove the stems (if there are any).
Using a meat grinder or a food processor, grind the garlic cloves, the cilantro and the peppers into a large bowl. Add in the spices and mix well.
Keep refrigerated in an airtight container. The z’houg tastes best when it is fresh. To ensure freshness, divide the z’houg into small portions, keep one container in the fridge and the rest in the freezer in airtight plastic bags.
* Optional – add to the z’houg mixture ¼ tsp ground cardamom and ¼ tsp ground clove, to enrich the flavor.