Sunday, October 27, 2013

003 - My Essential Ingredient

I honestly believe that seasonings are one of the major attractors for me to start learning to cook. As a kid growing up, I always collect things. Lego, Gundam, Plane Model, Video Games, ANYTHING! That’s before I eventually stumble into the kitchen and got fascinated over the colorful jar of spices and seasonings. 

There are tons of seasonings from around the world. Take a stroll down the ‘cooking ingredient’ alley of your nearest supermarket and see for yourself. Even the smallest supermarket will include (at least) essential ingredient for Indonesian food. 

If you want to seek (and spend) more, pay a visit to the supermarket that supplies imported spices and seasonings.  Be amazed from wide variety of salt, pepper, cinnamon, garlic powder, rosemary, even to the most expensive spice on earth, Saffron (Google it, that thing is expensive as fuck).

Here in my kitchen, I always have these lying around somewhere. If you’re only starting to cook, these seasonings and spice will cover most of your cooking need. Sure enough, all these ingredient can make your dishes shine bright after its finish (no, don’t add ‘Like a Diamond’ after it, I hate that song). I’m gonna divide this post into 2 sections; the seasonings and the spice.


      1. Salt

Salt is a necessity. It’s the icing on the cake. Without it, your kitchen is useless. No, seriously. It adds flavor, it adds depth, it adds a dimension to a dish, and that’s just some of the things it can do. Even the most delicate chocolate chip cookie will not be good without a touch of salt!

Salt comes in many shapes and sizes. I loved coarse sea salt in particular. It has deeper flavor than regular table salt, and it cooks well too! You’ll see what I mean when you cook your own steak with coarse sea salt. In the end, experiment with different kinds of salt. All will yield unique result to your dish nonetheless.

These 3 are the ones i have in my kitchen now. Iodized salt is mainly used for baking (thanks to its fine texture), while the 2 are used in various savory food.

                                        (L-R) Garlic Salt, Iodized Salt, Coarse Sea Salt

2. Pepper

Pepper is Salt’s best friend. Invest in a good peppermill, and always use fresh peppercorns. NEVER, EVER, like, FOR ETERNITY, investing in pre-grounded pepper. Pre-grinding the paper makes the pepper loses its taste and aroma significantly!

In Indonesia, the usual peppercorns you found are black and white. The black peppercorn has a sharper taste with a kick, while the white peppercorns are more subtle and delicate. If you managed to find red or green peppercorns, BUY IT. When you do, mixed it together with the black and white peppercorns inside the mill, and watch in awe as the colorful pepper gave taste and distinct looks to your dish!

                        (L-R) Fresh Black Peppercorns, Freshly Grind Black Peppercorns)


A staple in Asian cooking and a great way to create Umami taste. It is also a vital part in making desserts. Sugar comes in many shapes and sizes. There’s rock sugar, sugar cubes, granulated sugar, icing sugar,brown sugar, and the limitation is only as far as your imagination could go.  It’s always a good idea to keep white and brown sugar at home. 

                                               (L-R) Granulated Sugar, Light Brown Sugar

4. Smoked Paprika Powder

This thing is dynamite. It’s made from ripe Paprika, dried, and then ground into powdered consistency. I loved putting this in any savory dish I made. Here’s a tip: always shake your Jar every so often to ensure there are no lumps in the bottom.

5. Onion + Garlic Powder

These two powders are one of the things I always use to ‘hack’ onion/garlic flavor to my dish when I’m limited on time. These can be used for Beef, Chicken and Fish. But be aware, use both sparingly; the taste is much more potent than the fresh counterpart!

                                           (L-R) Garlic Powder, Onion Powder

Spice and Herbs.

Before we go on, there are 2 types of spices and herbs in the market; Fresh and Dried. The rule of thumb is dried herbs will smell and taste more potent than its fresh counterparts. Here is the list of S&H I’d like to keep at my kitchen.

(Clockwise From Top Left) Parsley, Thyme, Bay Leaf, Basil, Dill

1. Dried Parsley

Dried Parsley is pretty much tasteless.But, Parsley always worked wonder as a garnish to give a dish a distinctive look. It's my favorite garnish in the kitchen!

2. Dried Thyme

A strong smelling herb, worked wonder if paired with poultry dishes; such as roast chicken. Also a great addition to any brine solution. What's brine? i'll cover that in another post :)

3. Dried Bay Leafs

A very well known 'magic key' in unlocking perfect savory dish. Bay leafs are also available fresh, and they both worked well in dishes. But here's a rule of thumb; dried variant lasts significantly longer in your kitchen.

4. Dried Dill

Only available in the import section of the supermarket. Best used for egg and fish dishes.

5. Dried Basil

Mainly used for Italian dish. Worked extremely well in Pizza!

                                                                       (L-R) Shallots - Garlic

6. Shallots

I have never seen so much shallots used in dishes other than Indonesian. Practically, almost every Indonesian dish benefits from the sweet and tangy taste of the shallots. Can be used as a whole (for pickle), sliced (for garnish or filling for eggs) or even mashed (as part of the base sauce)

7. Garlic

When eaten raw, beware, they taste sharp. Almost wasabi-like i might say. Always look for the firm, unbruised ones when buying. Dump them as soon as they felt soft and squishy.

Everything sounded good so far right? Look no further, let's jump to the recipe right after this post!



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