Friday, September 19, 2008

Reflection: Our repertoire of food and ingredients....

It is never a difficult task to begin a microscopic analysis on recent conversations with friends while you are ill in bed =P

This conversation began on pictures of the spiny crustaceans I sampled during my trip to Hokkaido, Japan....

The topic: our willingness to expand of our repertoire of food and ingredients

The panel of speakers: 2 Asian foodie vs 2 American foodies

The verdict....wouldn't be that difficult to guess....

As a person whom is privileged to grow up in a place with a history can be shared through its cuisines, a culture embraces an eating philosophy that all moving creatures with their backs facing the Sun can be consumed, and a culinary belief where the distinction of textures between the various cuts within a slab of beef brisket should be cherished; it was difficult at first for me to understand how one would deliberately restrict their knowledge in shrimps only come headless and edible chicken parts only consist of muscles. My fascination on foreign and odd looking bites, could be one's nightmare.

As I began unfolding my "fresh" sashimi experience, me peeling the flesh of a Pudan Shrimp (ボタン海老 - 牡丹虾) off its skeleton when it was still very much alive, my friend from the other side of the panel simply looked horrified.

As I began to dissect this conversation, I came to realise, culinary experience for some of us including myself, is something that we thrive to gain. There is nothing more thrilling than seeing the unfamiliar and the strange. It is almost like an addiction, an sensory experience that would give us cognitive pleasure.

However, if this sensory exposure or imagination of a foreign food could yield an experience so alarming and fearful, the gustation of flavour would simply be overwhelmed and most likely be affected in a negative aspect. If that is the case, why are we still criticising those for not being adventurous in culinary experience?

I too do have intense struggles when faced with certain types of food. My most recent experience would have to be the Pork Lung Soup I savoured during my trip to Hong Kong. Organ meats are definitely a challenge for me, but as Mr. Choi Lan (蔡瀾先生 - a famous food critic in Asia, and someone I very much admire) said, you must let down your mental guards when it comes to food; you have to taste it and taste it again before you presume your likings, and then you will be able to open yourself to all that this world has to offer.

And my verdict on the soup? It was honestly the most unimaginable experience. The flavour was delicate yet complex. The 5 tastes were perfectly balanced, and the combination of pork and Chinese almonds brought out the natural umami from all the ingredients. The lung pieces themselves matched very closely with sweetbreads in its texture, minus the intensity of game flavour. Délicieux!

What's your insight on this? I will leave here another picture of a dish I often dream of....

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