|Licorice plant (G. glabra), flowering|
At first glance, the strong, dominating sweetness of this plant neither fits to sweet nor to spicy dishes. However, small amounts of licorice substantially improve the Chinese five spice powder (this is suggested by Norman and absolutely worth trying). For the other components of this spice mixture, see star anise. In China, licorice is often used to flavour master sauce (see cassia).
Licorice is the base of traditional candies of Northern Europe, particularly Northern Germany (Lakritz in Germany) and Scandinavia (salmiakki in Finland). These bonbons consist of the evaporated juice of licorice, plus some optional flavourings, e. g., lemon or more traditionally salmiac (sal ammoniac, ammonium chloride), but usually no sugar. More recently, licorice-based sweets have been suspected to cause high blood pressure; indeed, glycyrrhizin has hypertensive action, but it is yet unclear whether consumption of a few licorice candies could have any significant effect.
Several different spices are frequently termed
sweet. This attribute
does not always denote a truly sweet taste, but is sometimes used as a general
aromatic (e. g., cloves or cinnamon). Other spices, though, really taste somewhat
sweet, although in few of them sweetness is as strong as in licorice: Anise, fennel, and star anise are typical examples for this sensory
quality; see also cicely. Other
are tonka beans and vanilla. A spice unique by its sweet pungency is long pepper. Lastly, both juniper berries and pink
pepper contain significant amounts of sugar and, thus, indeed taste sweet;
their sweetness is, however, of minor importance in the kitchen.