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Old 04-22-2015, 02:37 PM   #1
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The dreaded bitterness...

Hello everyone. I found this forum looking for a couple of culinary pointers and decided I very much like the premise of it! Now onto the problem...

I cook a lot of Indian food and I have constantly improved my skills since I started over two years ago. However, there is one thing I cannot crack. Sometimes, when I finish coking a meal, I notice there is an underlying bitterness to it. Usually, it's very subtle, but it's prevalent enough that it puts me off of enjoying it. I have not been able to figure out why until I stopped and thought about it. Here are some ideas:

1. Onions - is this due to using onion pures at times (the only two recipes I can think of right now where I have the problem are both onion pure-based with no tomatoes)? My (youtube) Indian mentor, Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi mentions cutting out the centre of the onion to reduce bitterness. However, I'm not sure this is the problem as I do not cut the centre out of onion when I chop them.

2. Not cooking the spices enough; when I add spice powders to the mix, am I not cooking them through enough to cook out the raw flavours? (again, mentioned by Chef Harpal!)

3. Not using enough oil - this is the one I think is most likely to be the problem. I always thought "let's be healthier and use less oil!" but I think this means that the onion/ginger/garlic absorbs all the oil and the spice powders burn against the oil-less saucepan. I've noticed Indian chefs use a lot of oil (three tablespoons is more like three litres to them!)

What do you all think? Can you help me crack the problem? Other than this (thankfully, infrequent) problem, my Indian food tastes great!

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Old 04-22-2015, 04:32 PM   #2
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I don't know, but I would guess that something is getting slightly burnt.
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Old 04-22-2015, 08:11 PM   #3
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I don't know, but I would guess that something is getting slightly burnt.
My thoughts also. And I am inclined to think it might be the spices. The only part of the onion that may be bitter would be the core at the bottom where all the sulfur is stored. And it could be the kind of onion you are using. Here in the States we have several kinds of sweet onions we can choose from.
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Old 04-22-2015, 11:09 PM   #4
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I hope someone else has some ideas. I sometimes get that subtle bitter flavour in Indian cooking too. I haven't paid enough attention to say what I was making.
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Old 04-23-2015, 01:48 AM   #5
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The times when I use tomatoes, I always fry the tomatoes until mashed and then add the powdered spices and it turns out fine, so I am leaning towards the spice-burning due to lack of something (oil or moisture). I am leaning even more towards it now that I have seen your feedback :) I suppose that the tomatoes provide some extra bulk to take some of the heat away from the spices and some greater surface area to reduce contact of the spice powders with the hot metal. I'll have a go with a bit more oil and see what happens! I shall let you know whenever I get round to it :)
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Old 04-23-2015, 03:01 AM   #6
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Suthseaxa, I forgot to welcome you to Discuss Cooking, so welcome. I hope you stick around. It's a fun and interesting forum.
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Old 04-23-2015, 04:05 AM   #7
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I think its a burning problem . Have you tried using whole spices , dry frying them and then grinding them to a powder ?
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Old 04-23-2015, 04:41 AM   #8
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It's a spice problem, I agree! There are evidences in all you wrote in your first post here Add oil, a bit of water or use tomatoes' ragu, I don't think onions will ever cause you problems of bitterness!
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Old 04-23-2015, 10:24 AM   #9
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It's a spice problem, I agree! There are evidences in all you wrote in your first post here Add oil, a bit of water or use tomatoes' ragu, I don't think onions will ever cause you problems of bitterness!
They will if you burn them.
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Old 04-23-2015, 11:50 AM   #10
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I always dry-fry spices before grinding them to a powder in my large, granite mortar These powders are quite possibly burning, so I'll use a bit more oil or some water next time and hopefully this will solve it! Thanks all!
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