Cubeb Pepper

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Cubeb Pepper or Tailed Pepper (or even older Java Pepper or tabe djawa), comes from a vine native to Java and other Indonesian islands, Piper cubeba. Cubeb is a great and difficult to find specialist pepper. The cubeb pepper berries look like cartoon bombs that you might see in Tintin books; cubeb pepper berries are black and of a similar size to black peppercorns but with a 3 - 6 mm (¼ inch)long stalk sticking out of one end.

The aroma of cubeb pepper is fresh and peppery, while the flavour is hot, pungent and pine-like, but on cooking cubebs have hints of allspice.

Although popular for many years as a substitute for true black pepper, cubeb pepper is seldom seen in cuisine nowadays, save as a constituent of ras el hanout spice blend - a throwback to the times that spice trading was dominated by Arab merchants - and to flavour North African lamb and mutton tagines.

Substitutes: use black pepper on an equal basis if you have no cubeb pepper.

Further reading

  • Hemphill, I., Hemphill, K. (2014) The Spice and Herb Bible, Robert Rose. ISBN: 9780778804932.
  • McFadden, C. (2007) Pepper: the spice that changed the world, Absolute Press. ISBN: 9781904573609.
  • Norman, J. (2015) Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference, DK Publishing. ISBN: 9781465435989.