Have you ever bitten into a nice-looking food, only to find out that the taste does not match the presentation? We get you, as we have been there more times than we would like to count. Some food may need a complete overhaul because of the critical steps that were missed or done differently than what’s supposed to be executed. However, some dishes may only need minor tweaks for a major mind-blowing change, as far as gastronomy is concerned. This article will give tips on enhancing your dishes’ taste while enjoying the process and without getting a major headache in the long run.
Be mindful of the fire.
Or electricity-induced heat to start off the cooking process, for that matter. Some cooking recipes from the Philippines call for slow cooking. Beef is an example. If you try to speed up the process by turning up the heat, it can make the meat tough and the flavors compromised because the chemical breakdown of the flavors is already altered. If you’re saving gas, electricity, or time, consider batch slow-cooking the meat to make it tender. You may also consider alternative cooking methods, such as batch cooking over firewood (if you have the space and the resources to do that).
Modify the texture.
If other people tell you that your pasta is not appetizing or not up to standard, investigate the possible causes. One of the things that you need to check first is the noodle itself. Is it too soggy or dry? Because this is considered one of the foundations of the dish, it’s imperative to keep the pasta al dente and to closely monitor how it’s cooked (in case you have to delegate this task to someone else). Another example that may fall under the texture department is the sisig. Try sprinkling some chicharon bits just before serving and see if it makes a great deal of difference to the dish.
Consider the seasonings used.
If you’re whipping up some taco-inspired dishes and currently rely on salt and pepper to wing that stuff, you’ll need to step up your A-game. Try other spices that you haven’t explored yet at this point. In this case, cumin may do the trick for that distinct yet deep flavor that you often associate with that dish. In a similar light, you may want to consider swapping your “traditional seasonings” from time to time and see if it makes a lot of difference to the dishes you’re creating all this time.
Adjust the fat content.
This is one of the most important things that is often overlooked, but if you think about it, it is considered a part of the foundation of your dish. If you’re getting feedback that your creation is “too rich,” you may want to check the type of fat you’re using and how much you use every step of the way. It’s also a good idea to see if there are any other “hidden fats” that you don’t readily identify as such but can be placed under this category nonetheless. Butter, cooking oil, lard, and mayonnaise are just some ingredients that can add to the overall fat content of your food. If you’re using at least two of these, you may want to make some adjustments–no need to take them out entirely if it works for your dish.
Add some acid.
Some people are afraid to do this because it gives the impression of changing the “identity” of the entire dish altogether. But if you think about it, it can indeed change the food entirely–in a good way. If you’re going for pork-based dishes, for example, adding an acid component can help get rid of the unpleasant aftertaste that’s closely associated with this type of meat. You don’t have to incorporate a cup of lemon juice to enhance the flavor of your dish. In many cases, even a teaspoon of vinegar can go the extra mile. Sometimes, adding the acid part to your marinade mix does the trick.
Assess the stir-frying phase.
Some dishes call for the aromatics to be stir-fried before adding the main ingredients. This gives some recipes the depth of flavor they are usually known for. Mess up this part and you may even get a bland meal or something with a bitter aftertaste–or maybe even both. Aside from the onion and garlic debate (which should go first) during this phase, you may also want to nitpick these aspects:
- Oil or other fat used to start the process
- How much seasoning goes into this phase
- How long the stir-frying part lasts
- Interval of mixing the ingredients, if applicable
- Types of seasoning used for this part
Incorporate some spice.
Not everyone can tolerate spicy food, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for bland food all the time. If you’re cooking for people who hate food that can set their tongues on fire, go for a compromise. Incorporate spicy seasonings with low heat levels and see if they can tolerate that. One good example is rayu or layu. While it can surely give that interesting depth of flavor, adding a small amount can’t readily feel uncomfortably spicy. If nothing spicy seems to work, make the option of adding the spicy component after cooking the dish.
Play around with some sweet flavors.
No need to make the dish entirely sweet. Sometimes, a little goes a long way, and a hint of that flavor can make a whole lot of difference to your recipe. In some instances, the “secret ingredient” doesn’t even have to be entirely sweet to give that enhanced flavor to your food. Some ingredients that you may try adding–aside from sugar–are oyster sauce, honey, and milk.
Don’t skip the salt.
Some folks may argue against this because of their underlying medical conditions, such as hypertension. If your doctor said to have absolutely no salt in any part of your diet, by all means, stick to the advice. Otherwise, don’t skip this step just because you think salt is boring, and there are other seasonings that you can use anyway. While that may be partly true, adding salt to your dishes (even the ones for sweets) can enhance the flavor of the food without altering the main components. Ever wondered why salted chocolate and salted caramel even got their popularity in the first place? Yep, salt.
Experiment and take note of the changes.
Mix and match the tips that you’ve learned so far and list down your observations. This is important so you can make amends the next time you cook the same dish sometime in the future.
We hope these tips to enhance your once-bland dishes will help make your meals spectacular, especially during the holiday season (or any other season that calls for a celebration, for that matter). Using one or all of the cooking tips above, you can also objectively determine what part of the cooking process went wrong. As a result, it will be easier for you to make the necessary changes to improve your dishes even more. This is in contrast to receiving feedback that only tells you that the dish is not tasty or that it’s not savory, among other vague comments that you may have received in the past.