Masterchef series influences a lot of lives around us. We come to know of different techniques, flavour combos , and even ingredients . The Australian season this year has seen the use of lot of Japanese ingredients . Honestly i hadn’t even heard about a few of them . So i started my research on the staple ingredients used in a few cuisines all over. Some of them are hidden gems full of flavour. A hint of it adds a dimension to the dish .
I would be doing a series of such ingredients . Today i cover a few basic ones from Thai and Japanese Cuisines. Most of them are readily available in India . Lets have a look at them
Essentials of Thai Cooking
1) Birds Eye chillies :
These deceptively slender chillies are prized in the Thai kitchen for their intense heat and pungency. The green ones are more potent and immediately singe the tongue and the red ones are comparatively milder.
2) Pea aurbergine :
These are commonly available at supermarkets these days. Found in clusters, they look like green peas. Mildly bitter, they are added whole in curries or pounded into spice paste.
3) Sweet Thai Basil :
Its quite different from the Italian large leaf basil. Its much intense in flavour and sweeter, with hints of liquorice and mint. These cannot be substituted with holy basil or tulsi.
4) Galangal :
It belongs to the ginger family and is mildly peppery root vegetable with largely citrus flavours. Fresh galangal has a pink stem and a supple texture. The stem is inedible as its very fibrous, though it can be used to flavor stocks.
5) Thai yellow chilli :
These are not so popular ones as compared to its other counterparts. It has a very mild and fruity flavor. This chilli lends the color yellow to the yellow Thai curry.
6)Pandan leaf :
These long leaves when bruised, lend a uniquely sweet taste and aroma to the curries . They are also used to wrap fish and other meats before steaming.
7) Dried red chilli :
Also known as the Thai red peppers, these are used led for their taste and more for their body and texture . The indian resham patti chillies is the closest we have to it.
8) Lemongrass :
Prized for its intense citrusy aroma and gingery taste, it gives the dish a punch of flavor. The freshest lemongrass has a firm, green upper stalk and a pale yellow white lower stalk.
9) Makroot Leaf :
It is also known as Kaffir lime leaf and is dark green and glossy. It has an aromatic, lingering kick of lime that is intensely floral. These leaves add a citrusy flavor to soups, stocks and curries .
10) Makroot Fruit :
It resembles a lime and is dark wrinkly surfaced citric fruit. It is famous for its intense flavor. The only edible part is its zest, which is used to flavor Thai curry. The white pith is bitter and inedible.
11) Katuri Flower :
Found both in red and white varieties, it lends a sweet crunch to the Thai salads and stir-fries. It is also batter fried whole and eaten on its own with a spicy dip or relish.
12) Fresh red chilli :
It is long, thin and with a pointed tip. It has mild heat and crunchy texture reminiscent of bell peppers. It has a sweet and spicy kick and is best enjoyed raw as a garnish for the salads and curries .
Essentials of Japanese cooking
1) Sake :
It is used in Japanese cooking as white wine is used in western cuisines. If unavailable white wine can be used.
It is a very essential condiment in Japanese cooking. It is a sweet fortified liquour made with rice . It has a lower alcohol content and a higher sugar than Sake. It is used to sweeten dishes or lessen the smell of certain fishes .
It is a citrus based sauce used in many sauces.
4) Pan ko :
These are breadcrumbs, just softer and fluffier. Used to make deep fried dishes crispy and light. They are made from a crustless bread.
5) Yuzu :
It is a tangy citrus fruit with a fragrant peel. Yuzu peel powder or Yuzu juice is available in the markets.
6) Miso :
Probably the most recognisable ingredient for those unaccustomed to Japanese food, miso is a fermented paste that can not only be used as a soup base, but also as a grilling marinade or to add a quick hit of flavour. The darker the paste, the stronger it is.
7) Rice vinegar:
Rice vinegar is mild and sweeter than white wine vinegar. You will also see something called sushi vinegar – this is just rice vinegar with added flavorings, mainly salt.
8) Nori seaweed :
The black dried sheets used to wrap sushi rolls, also used shredded as a topping and so on. It’s even cooked to a paste to eat with rice.
9) Togarashi :
It is a seven ingredient pepper powder. It is a coarsely ground red pepper condiment that’s used on udon noodles, cold tofu, and so on. It has ground up yuzu peel, sesame seeds, and other good things in it.
10) Shiso leaves :
Shiso (perilla) is the most common herb used in Japanese cooking, about as useful as fresh basil is in Italian cooking. The green kind is used fresh, and the red kind is used for pickling.
11) Dashi :
Dashi is often referred to as the defining ingredient of Japanese cuisine. It is a delicate golden stock made from a combination of konbu (dried giant kelp) and flaked, dried bonito fish (katsuobushi). Also available in ready made liquid and dried instant form.
12) Wasabi :
A pungent Japanese root with a similar taste to horseradish, available fresh, as a paste, or in powdered form.
13) Shitake Mushrooms :
These are cultivated in both Japan and china, and used fresh as well as dried. Dried shiitakes have an intensely earthy, woody, umami flavor that brings a savory note to broths and sauces. (They are often used for making vegetarian dashi broth.) A high-quality dried shiitake is the tenshiro donko, which is cultivated especially for drying.