In Yemen, most cooks agree that the savory-sweet spice blend hawaij—a mix of cumin, turmeric, black pepper, coriander, cardamom and a what-have-you of other options—can be added to most everything, from roasted meats to stewed fava beans and simmered okra. When to add it? That’s a matter of debate.

A good example is the brothy soup called marak temani, made with chicken (or most any meat handy), potatoes and a punchy cilantro-chili condiment. The hawaij is added sometimes at the start, sometimes at the end. It depends on the cook and the desired effect.

Because, as we learned, timing matters. Toasted spices added to the chicken at the start, before the meat is seared, develop richness and depth. But when the spices are added at the end, they deliver lighter, brighter notes.

At Milk Street, we liked the nuances both approaches offer. So for our version of this Yemeni chicken and potato soup, we decided no choice was needed—we’d add the hawaij at the start, finish and—for good measure—the middle, too.

Marak temani is a descendant of a legacy of richly spiced dishes in Yemen; the country was a key stop along the spice route. It typically is a straightforward preparation. Simmer meat in water to make a broth that also cooks the potatoes and carrots. After the meat is shredded, the dish is served with zhoug, a cardamom-­spiced cilantro paste spiked with chili.

The spices lend a warming depth to the broth, while the zhoug freshens it, and tender chicken and potatoes absorb all the flavors.

To make the most of our hawaij, we first use it to coat bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. As we sear the meat, the fat and heat unlock toasted flavors as the spices bloom. The chicken then is set aside while we cook onions, garlic and cilantro stems, plus another tablespoon of the spice blend, which browns in the pan and enriches the broth when we deglaze.

Once the chicken is returned to the pot, we add yet more hawaij to deliver a third layer of flavor from the same ingredient. The result—maximum layers of flavor in a richly seasoned soup, all from one spice blend.