WHAT IS IT?
Fragrance is the name of the game in cinnamon, and, with all due apologies to Ceylon and every other cinnamon-producing country, the cinnamon from Vietnam, usually called Saigon cinnamon or Vietnamese cinnamon is the Rolls Royce of spice barks.
The spice is obtained from the inner bark of trees, rolled up and dried. What gives cinnamon its big flavor is the essential oil cinnamaldehyde. The Vietnamese variation has 25% more, making it the boldest, and pricier, of the cinnamon species. It also makes it high in coumarin, which should be consumed in moderation weekly.
Cinnamon is used in both sweet and savoury foods. In savories, like a Moroccan couscous, or a curry, it’s the aromatic ooh and ahhh. In the sweet stuff, cinnamon qualifies the perception of the sugars because its aromatic and sugar intake hit a grand-slam on your palette. Amped up quantities make it hot and spicy, like the candy and liqueurs going by the “Fireball” brand.
Cinnamon products are all made from the bark of cinnamon trees farmed in much of Asia, primarily cultivated in Vietnam, Cambodia, and China. Cinnamon is one of the most commonly used spices in the world after salt and pepper, although its dominant uses, by geographic region vary, oddly from savory to sweet. Europe and North America run to the sweet side, while Africa and Asia predominantly use it as a savory fragrant.
- Key ingredient in Phở soup broth
- Vietnamese Coffee
- Roasted sausages (Cha Que)
- Vietnamese Spring Rolls
A FEW IMPROVISATIONAL RIFFS:
- Any dish that uses cinnamon;
- Perks up my Pee Wee’s Pork Perfection BBQ pork
- Fragrant for my Cinnamon-Adobo Roasted Chicken
- Gives my Mexican mole sauces a little aerial advantage
- Makes for a good breakfast or soup sausage
Vietnamese cinnamon is more closely related to cassia, a cousin of the Ceylonese cinnamon tree. Saigon cinnamon was unavailable in the United states for decades because of the Vietnam War, and our post-war cold-war with the Vietnamese government. Relaxing of relations under the Obama Administration allowed for Vietnamese imports to resume, and the spice began finding its way legally into the U.S. after a period where the only way to get it was through Mexico, Canada or Europe. Called Saigon Cinnamon for its alliterative branding ease, the trees are grown in the central and central highlands regions of Vietnam, particularly the Quảng Ngai Province.
All cassia and true cinnamon contains coumarin, which provides cassia cinnamon’s aroma, but is mildly toxic to the liver and kidneys. One teaspoon of a cassia cinnamon powder, according to the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BFR), contains 5.8 to 12.1 mg of coumarin, which may be above the tolerable daily intake value for smaller individuals. Which is why cassia bark is restricted in Europe. Of course, our fine lobbyists in America have kept any restrictions out of our health law, as cinnamon, most always cassia-based, is a staple of American breakfast cereals, baked goods, and other treats.
It is best to restrict your use of cassia-based cinnamon to periodic, and not daily consumption. Ceylon cinnamon is “true” cinnamon, and has very little coumarin.
- Vietnamese Cinnamon
- Vietnamese Cassia
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