Today’s tip is from Chef Johnny Gnall. If you have questions or suggestions for tips, email Chef Johnny.
Home cooks can get intimidated by the thought of trying new ingredients. There’s a time-and-money issue of experimenting with something that might not turn out well.
But cooking is exploration. Sometimes explorers find that the trip yields nothing exciting, other times they happen upon a game-changer. With all the information and recipes on the Internet, you‘ve got all you need to add vivid new flavors to your cooking.
Ever heard of galangal (pronounced guh-LAHNG-ull, with a broad “a,” also called galanga and blue ginger)? Native to Indonesia, it is best known in America as an herb that flavors Thai soups.
Galangal. It looks like ginger but is used in a very different way. Don’t be intimidated by it! Photo by Piano Non Troppo | Wikimedia.
A member of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae, galangal is similar in appearance to ginger; but instead of ginger’s spice heat, it delivers an earthy, complex favor profile with notes of citrus, pine and cedar (and it’s usually removed prior to serving, not consumed in the same way as ginger). It’s also delicious in stews and stir-fries.
Once you know what something tastes like—kaffir lime or shrimp paste, for example—you can add it to your favorite recipes to give them new life.
DON’T BE INGREDIEN-TIMIDATED
Unleash your inner explorer and plan to try a new ingredient every month. Your supermarket may have enough to start you off—from enoki mushrooms in the produce department, quinoa with the grains, and the spice rack (check out black cardamom, cubeb pepper, fenugreek, grains of paradise, mastic, za’atar and many others).
Next, look up international markets and produce stores in your area and go browsing. If there are no local markets, search on the internet. Peruse African, Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern grocery sites.
Then, make yourself a list of 12 ingredients you want to try over the next year. Here are some ideas to start you off:
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