|A monument for clove and nutmeg in the center of Ternate city|
Trade between the
clove island Ternate and Imperial China goes back at least
to the Han dynasty, some 2500 years ago; a much older archeologigal find at an Mesopotamian site in
Northern Syria is of doubtful nature. In China, cloves were not only used for cooking but also for
deodorization; anyone having an audience with the Han emperor had to chew cloves to
prevent any undesired smell. Arab traders brought cloves to Europe in in late antiquity;
they were very expensive.
|The Gamalama volcano dominates Ternate Island|
When the Europeans, in the Age of Exploration, finally found the clove
producing islands, they took enormous interest in securing a constant spice
supply: The few tourists visiting the small island of Ternate
But Dutch heritage in today’s Ternate is small, at least compared to the great
Dutch influence still felt in the nutmeg producing
Banda islands. Still there is an Islâmic sultan in Ternate in his great
palace full of Chinese ceramics of all epochs; he still for tradition
regularly gives sacrifices to Hindu deities, and if (as happens often) the
island volcano Gamalama
It is amazing that cloves are not (or at least, very rarely and only for
sweets) used in the cuisine of the Moluccas; actually, in whole Indonesia, they
are not an important spice. Nonetheless, Indonesians are the main consumers of
cloves and use up nearly 50% of the world’s production. But, alas!, not
for cooking but for smoking: Cigarettes flavoured with cloves
(kretek) are extremely popular and nearly every (male) Indonesian
enjoys them. Their sweet, incense-like aroma pervades Indonesian restaurants,
buses, markets and offices (see tonka bean for
more on flavoured tobacco).
|Indonesian clove-flavoured cigarettes (kretek)|
It is impossible to mention all cuisines where cloves are used; they are much
loved by the Chinese, play an important rôle in Sri Lankan cooking, are
extensively used in the Moghul cuisine of Northern India (see black cumin), enjoy high popularity in the Middle East
and many Arab countries and are a common spice in Northern Africa. In all these
countries, they are preferred for meat dishes; frequently, rice is aromatized
with a few cloves. In Ethiopia, coffee is often roasted together with
some cloves in the so-called
coffee ceremony (see also
Cloves have less use in Europe, where their strong flavour is not so much appreciated. They are much used for special types of sweets or sweet breads, but especially for stewed fruits (together with cinnamon). Plain rice is often flavoured one or two cloves. In France, cloves often go into long-simmered meat stews or hearty meat broths. In England, they are most popular in pickles.
Consequently, many spice mixtures contain cloves. They form an essential part in the Chinese five spice powder (see star anise), frequently appear in curry powders (see curry leaves), determine the character of the Moghul variant of garam masala (see cumin) and are a component of the Arabic baharat (see paprika). Mixtures from Africa containing cloves are Moroccan ras el hanout (see cubeb pepper), Tunisian gâlat dagga (see grains of paradise) and Ethiopian berbere (see long pepper). A well-known European spice mixture depending on cloves is the French quatre épices (see nutmeg). Lastly, cloves have also established themselves in México (see paprika about Mexican mole sauces).
The taste of the famous Worcestershire sauce (also spelled
Worcester), an Indo-British contribution to international cuisine, is
markedly dominated by clove aroma. The sauce is composed of several spices
(besides cloves, garlic, tamarind, paprika or chiles are most frequently found), fish extract, soy
sauce, treacle, vinegar (or lemon juice) and salt.
There is no
authentic recipe, and therefore every vendor may sell his own
creation. I use this product mostly for vegetables, but this may be a matter of
personal taste; British cooks employ it also for meat and especially scrambled
Like many other British toponyms, Worcester is pronounced
quite irregularly: [ˈwʊ.stə].