Cinnamon holds a prominent position as a widely recognized and used spice worldwide.
Derived from the bark of the camphor tree thriving in the tropical regions of South and Southeast Asia, cinnamon possesses a delightful fragrance.
Harvested during the rainy season when the bark is soft, it undergoes a drying process in the shade for 4-5 days. The dried bark is then rolled onto wooden boards, forming the characteristic curled and hollow tube shape. Subsequently, it is cut into desired lengths. As one of the oldest spices, cinnamon has always carried an air of mystery.
Though Sri Lanka is traditionally considered the origin of cinnamon, it has spread across, India, Southeast Asia, and other regions. Presently, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Indonesia stand as major producers.
Cinnamon finds extensive use as both a medicinal ingredient and a flavor enhancer, with oil extracts also being utilized.
Indonesia, today's leading producer of cinnamon, relies heavily on this versatile spice, making it an integral part of the Indonesian culinary culture.
The production and global distribution of cinnamon positioned it as an early-world spice. It reached Egypt around 1500 BC and later found its way to the Middle East, hence its name derived from the Hebrew and Arabic term "Amomon," meaning spice.
In the Middle Ages, Western cuisines embraced cinnamon, utilizing it in simmered dishes, soups, desserts, and braised poultry dishes.
In the 15th century, Portuguese explorers unveiled the true origin of cinnamon—the dense cinnamon groves of Sri Lanka. Its rich aroma and robust flavor make it a prized ingredient across culinary traditions worldwide.
Its' affordability and widespread availability contribute to its status as the most commonly used spice globally.
In Western cuisine, cinnamon is commonly ground into a powder, extensively employed in baked goods and desserts, particularly with apples.
Classic examples include American baked cinnamon apples and the renowned Austrian royal dessert, "Apfelstrudel." Cinnamon powder can also be added to tea, chocolate, cocoa, coffee, and other hot beverages, imparting a delightful flavor.
Examples include the Italian "Cappuccino," the French "Café Diable," the English "Cinnamon Tea," and the Indian "Chai Tea Latte."
In Southeast Asia, cinnamon powder is widely used in various culinary applications. Traditional chicken curry often includes auxiliary ingredients such as chili pepper, cloves, and cinnamon, with the chicken simmered to infuse the flavors before adding curry powder.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, people enjoy a unique chilled drink known as ginger and cinnamon drink. It involves pouring the drink into a bamboo tube, adding ice, covering it, and then shaking it to produce a distinct sound known as "Pletok."