Archive for April, 2011

A rose by any other name – would it smell as sweet?

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Ispahan - A smooth rose flavoured biscuit with rose petal cream, fresh raspberries and lychees from Laduree

Isfahan or Isphahan refers to a historical city in Iran which use to be the capital and one of the largest cities in the world.   Iran’s culture has had a long and diverse tradition on the use of flowers in its food, health, trade and design.

Among the many varieties of roses, the Rosa damascena stands out as one of the most prized species in the commercial manufacture of rose oil and rose water due to its intense aroma.   It is widely cultivated and processed in Iran, Bulgaria and in Turkey.  However, studies seem to indicate that this species originated in Iran.

The processing starts with sack full of roses that have been harvested in the cool morning.   The petals are sorted on a concrete floor and allowed to slightly “ferment” then the oils are extracted through hydrodistillation.

Middle Eastern, North African and Indian cuisines have used floral waters extensively in beverage and food preparations.    Gulab Jamon, Zoulbia and bamia are just not the same without rose water added to their syrups.  Malaysia and Singapore has a drink called bandung or rose water mixed with milk, sugar and pink food colour.

In modern times, French chefs and patisseries have used rose water for flavouring macarons, chocolate and delicate cakes.   Successful pairings include tart berries such as raspberries to other floral notes namely lychee.  Dairy and vanilla are effective bases to accentuate the aromatic properties of the rose.

On the savoury side, rose water is added to stews such as safaid murgh gulabi (Chicken and Rose Curry) or Rose Quail Recipe taken from the book “Like Water for Chocolate”.   Sweet or savoury, it is best not to use too much in a recipe.  Used sparingly, the flavour of the rose can be quite intoxicating and definitely worth trying out!

Rose water is available through Ingredient Hotline, Inc.

Real Food. Real Taste.

Monday, April 11th, 2011

How many “Thai” restaurants have you been to, only to find that the dish is more Chinese in taste and style than what it’s suppose to be?

Real Food, Real Taste – this is my catch phrase for 2011.

Real food means natural ingredients.

Real Taste means authentic flavours.

Real Food, Real Taste are what consumers are looking for when they purchase food products or eat at a restaurant. The description of the food product or meal has to be more specific. Is it from the Yucatan or Oaxacan? Is the dish prepared and served as you would find it in Mexico or is it “Tex-Mex”

Real taste or authenticity is what you can delight your customers with if you use the real ingredients.   Kecap Manis is not Hoisin sauce.   Galangal is not ginger – they just do not provide the same depth of flavour.   Brown sugar is not coconut/palm sugar so an equal substitution would produce a sweeter than expected taste.    If you have never tried smoked paprika from the de la Vera region of Spain, then you have not tasted real smoked paprika.   Paella and chorizo just don’t taste the same without this key ingredient.   Paprika that is found in the supermarket is bland, so consumers associate paprika for just adding colour on devilled eggs.

It would also help if the chef or developer has had the chance to taste the actual target at the place of origin and has seen how it is served.    In most situations, the customer has lived in or travelled to distant countries, has savoured the dish and they just want to relive that experience.   It could get very disappointing when an advertised item does not deliver.

Real Food means using raw materials that are either fresh or minimally processed.    When you cook with vanilla beans, it provides such a big difference compared to using ethyl vanillin or an artificial vanilla flavour.    The cost of natural ingredients are often higher, but the satisfaction derived is also greater.

If you are looking to cook with Real Food with Real Taste ingredients, check out our website:   Our unique and natural ingredients are grown, processed and supported from the source.