Through his Lebanese fig marmalade, Chef Youssef encourages cooks to rediscover traditional, classic recipes and ingredients. In that particular dish, the fig is paired with mastice di Chios. A traditional ingredient in some Mediterranean dishes, the vegetable resin adds a woody, pine-like flavor to contrast the juiciness of the fig. While not necessarily changing the texture, the combination creates a more nuanced, multi-faceted flavor balance.
Highlighted as an item on the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage list, the mastic tree resin has been used as the first chewing gum and some believe consider it a digestive aid. As the “tears” from the tree dry, it is ground and incorporated into various offerings, including baked goods, beverages, and even marmalade.
While not necessarily a common ingredient, the flavor is often described as woody and primarily pine-forward. In a way, it can be slightly more sweet than rosemary, but it maintains its herbal quality. With those characteristics in mind, it can round out other more dominant flavors in a dish.
One common use is the mastiha liqueur. While it had been traditionally used as a digestif after a meal, some chefs and mixologists have showcased the flavor in various dishes and cocktails. Michelin-starred chefs have used it in fish stew and mixologists have been highlighting the alluring aroma of the specialty ingredient.