India Joze Cooking Guide
The fun of playing with unusual ingredients, tastes, techniques, aromas, and attitudes towards food is spoiled if your creations are not appreciated. Food is meant to be enjoyed, not suffered like bad-tasting medicine. Jozseph's India Joze approach to cooking involves specific techniques, adjustments, and types of ingredient substitutions that will help you become more adaptable in all your cooking, to any and all medical, philosophical, economic or aesthetic dietary constraints.
Next year and years from now we will look back at the current pronouncements on diet and health and smile at their naiveté. Our goal should be to better understand how to appeal to all tastes, so we can maintain the flexibility to up-date our favorite eating experiences as well as discover new ones.
Through my travels, studies and restaurant, I have become convinced that for food to be "good," certain general preconditions must be met within the four basic categories of texture, flavor, aroma, and decoration.
For American audiences (eatiences?), the textures of the foods must be appropriate. General strategies for producing what we consider "good" textures and avoiding what we consider "bad" textures are a cook's first priority.
Providing a wide range of appropriate textures during a meal either as part of the dishes themselves or with garnishes will greatly help make your guests more receptive to other aspects of your cooking art. We have found that other niceties of flavor, aroma, and decoration tend to be wasted if the textures of a dish or a meal are not pleasing.
A wide range of textures smooth, crisp, juicy, crunchy, tender, chewy, crackling at a meal will tend to make eating more interesting. The acceptable range of textures for most Americans is much narrower than that found in Asia. 'Slimy' and 'tough-chewy' are deliberately sought after in many Asian cuisines but they are best minimized here.
Texture is the aspect of cooking that is the most difficult to control or adjust. Textures change when a recipe is scaled up or scaled down. They change when you change pans or stoves. They change when a dish sits. They change when a dish changes temperature. Ingredients change their thickening powers and other textural effects from one batch to the next. Cookbooks are filled with seemingly odd or even unnecessary instructions and cautions aimed at heading off problems with the texture of the end product.
Aroma is the most elusive and powerful element of wonderful food. It is Aroma that lifts food from the merely "good" to the sublime. Aromatics have unmediated access directly to our emotions and memories. At best, they unlock for us the feelings that validate all the trouble we spend cooking.
Unlike the six or so tastes (scientists quibble), we can distinguish thousands of aromas. Various people have tried to classify smells with some success. A recent study found camphor-like, vinegary, ethereal, putrid, pepperminty, musky, and floral and claimed to be able to correlate smells to specific nerve cells.
Classifications of smells are useful to the cook. We temporarily lose our ability to smell something or any related smell after a minute or less of exposure, so it is important to have changing aromas to keep our noses awake.
Cultures differ sharply in acceptable levels of aromatics. Europeans and Americans tend to look down on strong bouquets outside their wine glasses. Indian and other Middle Eastern cuisines on the other nostril greatly enjoy extreme perfumes with their meals. Cultural cross-purposes can get especially strong about funky, musky food smells.
Unlike flavors, different aromas do not tend to conflict within a dish, but add to its complexity and depth of flavor. The great danger of overcooking foods lies in driving away and dissipating delicate aromas as well as ruining the texture.
Decoration is an element of great food. Personally, I think that our cuisine overemphasizes the appearance and textures of foods to the detriment of their taste and aroma. At its worst, British cuisine seems to care more about how food looks and the types of serving dishes than any other qualities. Still, since most of us have vision as our primary acuity, cooks who ignore how foods are visually presented do so at their peril. And since the only possible mass reproduction of food is done visually, merchandisers of all sorts will always have a stake in valorizing the ineluctable modality of the visible.
Flavor Saturation means that either the separate dishes of a meal or the meal as a whole must have all the flavors we can taste present in some perceptible degree: Sweetness, Hotness, Bitterness, Tartness, Saltiness, and Richness (Oiliness). The result is a satisfying fullness and wholeness to any dishes whatever their differing flavor balances. Even experienced cooks are often amazed at how much difference the addition of even a tiny amount of a missing flavor can add to a dish. Sometimes even a very sweet aroma can provide the sweetness necessary to bring out all the flavors of a dish. Aromas cannot come fully into play without Flavor Saturation, which is why a small amount of salt, lemon (sweet-tart), black pepper (bitter-hot), and olive oil can work such miracles with so many foods.
Flavor Saturation is sometimes intrinsic to the ingredients in the foods we cook as is typical of many Western food staples, like cheeses, meats, and wines. Asian cuisines often build up flavor saturation through a complex of separate simpler flavorings that by themselves are too powerful or weird to appreciate by themselves.
If you are faced with a dish that doesn't taste right, split off a small portion of the total dish and add a representative of each of the flavor families until the taste is right. Then adjust the whole dish. Don't neglect the bitter elements; despised in excess, bitter "focusses" flavors.
If you want to increase any part of the flavor intensity of a dish, you will probably have to increase the other flavors as well. You can seldom just increase the hotness of a dish and have it taste right without also increasing the tartness, richness, saltiness, bitterness, and sweetness as well.
Conversely, if one flavor element in a dish is too strong, say, too bitter, raising the intensities of the other flavors tends to bring the dish back into realm of the acceptable. Of course, if a dish is overly bitter, you make not be able to make it hot-sweet-tart-rich-salty enough without exceeding your guests' tolerance for overall flavor intensity.
Some ingredients and techniques seem to reduce a certain flavor. We say these have negative hotness,negative richness, negative bitterness, negative richness, negative saltiness, or negative tartness.
I have provided a flavor chart as a starting place for categorizing food ingredients by their structural flavor properties. Tried-and true recipes can be adapted to new and unfamiliar cuisines and ingredients with wonderful results by analyzing the flavors a specific missing ingredient adds to a dish and adding equivalents.
India Joze Flavor Saturation