The search for new flavors
As those closest to me are aware, I am a big fan of food. I hesitate to say I’m a “Foodie” for doing so usually requires a pretentious attitude to lesser Food relics like le big mac and whanot. Fact is, I love trying and cooking new things, be it a little fancier like sushi, or else dining at a greasy spoon with a badass burger. The search for a new flavor is what I enjoy. Though I enjoy cooking it’s tough to rush home from work and really make a meal to the extent in which I’d like to. I’d rather schedule a weekend afternoon/evening planning and executing a recipe, something in depth, I like the process or preparing a meal, the shopping for a list of ingredients to the preparation. I’ve cooked for quite a while now and can easily pull off the traditional stuff, meat loafs, lasagna, all the other american staples. The problem I’ve found is that it’s so easy to get stuck in the same pallete of flavors. When you use the same 15 ingredients for the majority of meals it just loses the excitement and ends up being same old same old zombie meal preparation.
Saturday I decided I was going to change things up a bit. I often overlook my allrecipes.com dinner spinner app on my iphone, but for some reason I decided to check it out. It’s a great way to find new dishes. Essentially you can pick from a combination of dish type, ingredient and preparation time the results then populate matching the input criteria. If you really want to live on the edge you can just shake the phone and all the fields are set on random. It’s a good time. The app led me to the recipe for Asian Barbequed Steak. At first glance I was underwhelmed, however upon investigating the ingredients I became more and more intrigued. The ingredients strayed far my traditional mainstream and I decided that was just what the taste buds needed, a festival of unfamiliar flavors. I navigated the grocery store aisles picking up fresh ginger root, chili sauce, sesame seed oil, some flank steak and the shockingly hard to find fish sauce (went to three separate stores on this adventure, thanks Hy-Vee on Broadway for not sucking).
There’s really nothing hard about making this dish, it’s a simple enough marinade the worst part…not even that hard was dicing up the fresh garlic and grading the ginger root. I’ll admit I was a bit anxious about using fish sauce. I’ve often heard of the process of making fish sauce and though it is quite the delicacy in the far east it’s not exactly standard procedure for the american palette. Then again who cares, just because I’m american doesn’t mean i have to subject myself to fried chicken strips and potatoes every damned day does it? I should think not. Three hours later after marinating the steaks were on the grill and soon on the plates. It was amazing. This might easily have been the best marinade I’ve ever tasted. Not sure how adding things like fish sauce to steak could bring out such amazing flavor, but I’m convinced. The taste was heavily sesame based with the saltiness of the fish sauce (not really a fishy taste at all) as well as the sweet kick of the fresh ginger. The cut of steak wasn’t anything ground breaking but it didn’t matter the marinade transformed an ordinary piece of meat into an extraordinary main course. In fact I made more of the tasty concoction and am currently marinating chicken to see if the sauce can again bring a fantastic new flavor to chicken as it did steak.
Perhaps trying new flavors is in someways a metaphor with everything in life. If you never get outside your comfort zone you’re never going to find that new amazing thing. Sure sooner or later you’re bound to eat or experience something that’ll leave you exorcising a demon in your bathroom, but that’s just the way it goes, without risk there is no reward. Life goes on. I plan on further exploring different culinary flavors and encourage you to do the same. So…how about it? What do I HAVE to try. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever made that rocked YOUR socks. Let me hear about it below in the comments. I’d love to hear your story of an unexpected favorite food, or something I can’t go on living without trying! Whatcha got?