Hawaij oven roasted fries with harissa ketchup and z'hug tahini sauce. (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Hawaij oven roasted fries with harissa ketchup and z'hug tahini sauce. (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Let these Middle Eastern flavors spice up crunchy oven fries

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Crunchy, lightly spiced potatoes are tossed with fresh garlic and parsley for a tasty take on a Kramer family favorite: double-cooked oven fries.

This version is flavored with a Yemeni hawaij seasoning mix for soups and stews, which combines turmeric and cumin with other fragrant spices. Serve it with Harissa Ketchup and Tahini Sauce with Z’hug (see below).

Hawaij, harissa (a North African hot sauce) and z’hug (a Yemeni condiment made with hot green or red peppers, cilantro and other spices) are available in many Middle Eastern, kosher and specialty markets. Hawaij and a dry harissa seasoning mix (an alternative for harissa sauce) are available in some spice stores as well as online. Sriracha sauce is another alternative for the harissa.

If prepared versions of z’hug and harissa are not available, make your own with the recipes here. Curry powder is an alternative if hawaij (sometimes labeled Israeli or Yemeni spice mix for soup) is unavailable.

Oven-Fried Hawaij Potatoes

Serves 4

  • 1 tsp. plus ¼ tsp. salt, divided
  • 4-5 medium large russet baking potatoes
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil plus extra for greasing pans
  • ¼ tsp. paprika or cayenne
  • 1 Tbs. hawaij spice mix for soup or curry powder
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh garlic
  • ½ cup finely chopped parsley
  • Harissa Ketchup
  • Tahini Sauce with Z’hug

Add ¼ tsp. salt to large pot of water. Bring to a low or slow boil (just barely boiling) over medium-high heat. While water is heating, scrub (do not peel) potatoes. Slice each potato in half lengthwise, then slice each half lengthwise so you have 4 slices. (If any slice is 5 inches or longer, cut crosswise in half.)

Place potatoes in the water. Return water to a slow boil. Adjust heat to keep from a full boil.

While potatoes cook, heat oven to 450 degrees. Grease 2 baking sheets with a few tablespoons of oil. In a large bowl, mix ¾ cup oil with ½ tsp. salt, paprika (use cayenne for spicier fries) and hawaij. Stir well.

Simmer potatoes 20-30 minutes until almost cooked. Potatoes should be tender but not soft all the way through. Immediately drain and put potatoes in the large bowl with the oil. Gently stir with a large spoon until covered with spices. Don’t worry about any separated pieces of skin or loose bits of potato; they will make extra crunchy bits. (If doubling recipe, mix in batches.)

Spread the potatoes, including any loose skins and bits, in a single layer over the 2 prepared pans. Place in oven, and bake 15 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the potatoes. Bake an additional 15 minutes. Flip potatoes again. Bake another 10-20 minutes until the potatoes are browned and crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle.

Put the remaining ½ tsp. of salt in a large, dry bowl. Add the hot potatoes; stir well. Add salt to taste. Stir in garlic and parsley. Serve immediately with Harissa Ketchup and Tahini Sauce with Z’hug.

Harissa Ketchup: Mix 1 cup tomato ketchup and 2 Tbs. harissa or sriracha sauce (or 2 tsp. dry harissa seasoning). Add more sauce to taste. Store up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Tahini Sauce with Z’hug: Stir 1½ Tbs. fresh lemon juice, 6 Tbs. cold water and ¼ cup tahini with fork in medium bowl. Mixture may seize, but keep stirring, adding more water as needed by the teaspoon until smooth. Stir in 2 tsp. z’hug. Add salt and additional lemon juice to taste. Swirl in 1 tsp. z’hug, but do not mix in. Store refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is faithkramer.com. Contact her at [email protected].