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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 color E1606; roucou (French).

General Description: The dark red seeds of the annatto tree (Bixa orellana), a tropical evergreen, are used mainly for the deep reddish orange color 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 color of chocolate until the seventeenth century. In Mexico, annatto colors 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 color for butter and cheeses such as orange Cheddars, English red Cheshire, and the red wax coating for Dutch Edam.

In the Caribbean, the seeds are usually heated in lard or oil to extract their color; 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 color roast pork. In Vietnam, annatto is added to frying batters and coconut-based curries for its color. A Vietnamese version of Beijing duck (_ga quay mat ong) uses annatto oil to color the bird’s skin.

Purchase and Avoid: 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 color vegetable curries, Chinese-style roast pork, or chicken, vegetable, or pork stews. Color beer batter or other frying batters with a little powdered annatto.

Food Affinities: Allspice, bitter orange, butter, cheese, chicken, chiles, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, lime, oregano, paprika, plantain, pork, shrimp, sweet potato, taro, tuna, yautia, yuca.

from Quirk Books: