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Posted in Spices and Herbs  
Annatto seeds and powder 

The dark red seeds of the annatto tree (Bixa orellana), a tropical evergreen, are used mainly for the deep reddish orange colour they impart. Annatto, native to Latin America, is now cultivated in many tropical countries, especially the Philippines. In Europe, annatto was used to deepen the colour of chocolate until the seventeenth century. In Mexico, annatto colours stews, sauces, and tacos. In the Yucatán, annatto is combined with other spices to make brick red seasoning pastes: achiote paste and adobo. In the United States and Europe, annatto provides natural colour for butter and cheeses such as orange Cheddars, English red Cheshire, and the red wax coating for Dutch Edam

Annatto paste 
In the Caribbean, the seeds are usually heated in lard or oil to extract their colour; the yellowish orange oil is strained and used as a cooking fat. In the Philippines, it goes into pipian, a dish of chicken and pork. The Chinese use it to colour roast pork. In Vietnam, annatto is added to frying batters and coconut-based curries for its colour. A Vietnamese version of Beijing duck (ga quay mat ong) uses annatto oil to colour the bird’s skin.

Other Names
Açafroa-do-Brasil or anato (Portuguese); achiote; achote; achuete (Tagalog); annatto or _orleanstrauch (German); anotto (Italian); beninoki (Japanese); hot dieu mau (Vietnamese); jarak belanda (Malay); kam tai (Thai); kesumba (Indonesian); _latkhan or sendri (Hindi); lipstick tree; natural colour E1606; roucou (French)
Purchase
For simmering in oil, purchase whole annatto seeds that are uniformly dark brick red without any flaky pieces of dried pulp. Purchase ground annatto for mixing into sauces or making seasoning pastes; the whole seeds are quite hard and difficult to pulverize.
Serving Suggestions
  • Use annatto oil for frying vegetables, fish, poultry, and pork.

  • Use powdered annatto to colour vegetable curries, Chinese-style roast pork, or chicken, vegetable, or pork stews.

  • Colour beer batter or other frying batters with a little powdered annatto.

Food Affinities

Category: Spices and Herbs

Sub Category: Spice

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