Standard Pages (they don't change often)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pure texture

Over at the Food in Houston blog, author anonymouseater is experimenting with jellyfish as an ingredient, and discovers that it is actually quite bland and simply a carrier for other flavors. This is actually quite a common theme for Chinese cuisine (and maybe for other localized Asian cultures that have derived it from Chinese influence): the use of ingredients purely for their textural components. Oddly enough, when we speak of food in the Western sense, we strictly focus on flavor (and even there, the language fails in describing things like 麻辣 "hot and numbing"), but Chinese connoseurs will pick apart items based on the interplay of textural components and how they act as carriers of flavor. The most expensive and celebrated ingredients among Chinese cooks: shark's fin and birds nest - the latter being so perilious to gather that it results in a significant number of deaths each year - are both purely textural ingredients.

Likewise, the concept extends to things that are textural, although carry mild flavors of their own - such as tofu and rice. Funny thing is, I think most Western palates would classify shark's fin, birds nest, stewed beef tendon, soft tofu, jellyfish and sea cucumber as simply gelatinous, when in fact, they demonstrate a range of textures appropriate for different applications, just as the different pasta shapes are appropriate for different sauces in Italian cuisine.

1 comment:

  1. Mrs. McBardo finds texture *very* important. It's why she won't eat squid. And why raw scallops are her favourite sushi dish.