Some like it spicy

Last evening I staged my own little food revolution in my kitchen. A revolution of flavor. For my summer Molecular Gastronomy class, we had to do an at-home experiment on balancing flavors. While I’ve heard that cooks in the know can add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice, a dash of salt or a sprinkling of sugar to adjust a recipe and make the flavors really sing, it was never a skill that I sought to cultivate (it always kind of languished on my “To Do Someday” list).
Let me tell you…this experiment was a revolution AND a revelation! Who knew that a few Thai chillies, two cloves of garlic, some lime juice and fish sauce and a bit of sugar could produce such magic. Do you enjoy Thai food? If so, you need to do this experiment for yourself at home, stat! If you don’t like Thai food, you could still benefit from reading the articles. I can easily see how the flavor-balancing principles will apply to any dish, from any cuisine.
The articles (all short) and experiment are from Kasma Loha-unchit’s Thai Food & Travel website:
  • Cooking ‘to Taste‘” discusses the importance of balancing and harmonizing flavors, especially when working with a foreign cuisine.
  • Creating Harmonies with Primary Flavors” pertains mostly to Thai food, but does make an important point about how understanding how the four basic tastes (sour, salty, sweet, bitter) interact can help you “rescue” any dish that has turned out a bit blah.
  • Principles of Flavor Harmony” goes a bit deeper into how those basic tastes, along with spicy, really interact and affect each other. It also discusses harmonizing not just flavors within a single dish, but flavors (and richness) within all dishes being served together.
  • Balancing Flavors: An Exercise” is the experiment my class performed. This changed the way I will cook forever, I kid you not. It also emboldened me to try my hand at more Thai dishes, which is a fantastic thing, because I love Thai food, but I’ve made few inroads thus far into actually cooking it. I am fairly adept with the European, Mediterranean and Latin cuisines, but not so much with the Indian/Asian cuisines.
We served the results of my experiment over stir-fried snow peas from my garden, sliced leftover grilled steak, and steamed brown basmati rice. That is something I could never do with the results of my chemistry or biology experiments. I won’t even talk about microbiology.
This little learning experience will undoubtedly bring more pleasure to my eating experiences forever more. Speaking of which, tomorrow I will be talking more about pleasure and food, drawing partly from my reading of The Slow Down Diet