Friday, March 4, 2011

Souring Agents

One of the most important tricks in the chef's repertoire is the deployment of sour tastes.

It's extraordinarily underused and the CC doesn't understand why.

In fact, the CC will argue that this idea is so important and so undeveloped that it should be better known. (The CC will probably regret this when he gets old. Perhaps you shouldn't give away all of your best ideas?)

The dynamic use of sour ingredients is the lynchpin in nailing the entirely desirable "wanna-eat-more" feeling.

It's not unknown — it's common to Indian street food, and Japanese cooking. It's well known to both Moroccan food, and Thai cuisine. It's actually the key idea that distinguishes Filipino food with its "hit-me-again" taste.

Why is so underutilized then? The CC stays mystified.

Humans are conditioned to eat slightly acidic foods. In fact, from an evolutionary perspective, substances that contain alkaline substances naturally (e.g. alkaloids) tend, on a general basis, to be highly poisonous. That's why soap tastes "bad". It's an evolutionary response to ensure avoidance of dangerous things.

(On a side note, that's why sweet tastes good instinctively to babies. It's an evolutionary response to fruits which are safe for consumption.)

Most chefs will tell you that they use two tricks. One is surface salt which the CC has talked about here extensively.

The other is the use of sour ingredients which "brighten" the flavor, and bring into sharp relief the other flavors that are being used.

Try it. You'll thank the CC later.


Reva said...

I love tomato, tamarind, kokum, and dahi as souring agents. But still have not mastered the art of using lemon, it just seems to overpower! Details, sir would be the way to make this blog rock.

ShockingSchadenfreude said...

Firstly, Indian "lemon"'s are actually limes. So let's start by calling them by the correct name.

You squeeze a lime all over the food. How hard can this be?