Do You Have A “Secret Weapon?"

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Jade Emperor

Sous Chef
Joined
Apr 12, 2023
Messages
536
Location
Australia
Of course, you needn’t reveal it, because it’s a secret, right?
But do you have any secret weapons when it comes to your cooking? Little things, maybe spices, herbs or just techniques that you use where the guests love your dish and can’t quite identify why.
I will reveal one of my favourite secrets.
Weiba.
It’s an Asian version of a stock paste. Numerous flavours available and all really good.
Use wherever you might reach for the western stock powder. It’s different, yet decidedly relatable. It gives me my own unique flavour profile and I always get asked what I use.
Secret away!
 
I often add a little beef or chicken base to stocks I use to make soups or stews. A little flavor boost.

Also, to maximize umami, I add some soy, fish or Worcestershire sauces.
 
porcini I understand, but "floss"? Not sure what that is if not another word for a type of powder?

I used to use Worcestershire sauce a lot and for some reason suddenly didn't like it. Don't know why, but anyhow have recently started to use it again and find it is working for me. .... go figure!
 
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@dragnlaw - floss is a very common Asian ingredient. Think of it like you would candy floss from a fair, but savoury. It dissolves rapidly in your dish, leaving just its flavour.
I’m not sure why it needs to be floss, but Asian food tends towards eclectic ingredients. I still to this day don’t know why some very specific dishes call for coriander powder and root is a no-no.
In western cuisine, we use what is commonly on-hand. In Asian cuisine, they do too, except the ingredients that are commonly available differs from region to region.
When I went to Ho Chi Minh, the food in the city was really westernised, but as I travelled out further, it became much more complex. I had the honour of being fed at the table of a 90 year old lady who spoke not a word of English.
I ate a version of tripe in a broth that I just cannot describe.
It was wonderful and a highlight of my culinary experience.
 
I don't have anything I keep "secret", per se, but a lot of things most people I know don't have in their kitchens! Besides all those already mentioned, here's something with a unique flavor, that I discovered in my early days of cooking, when I joined a co-op, down at school - some rice vinegar. That has that flavor, plus slightly less acidic that other vinegars - only 4%. That was what I use some in to make mayonnaise, which is the only way I'll eat anything with mayo in it. Later, I discovered the Chinese Chenkiang Black Vinegar - a rice and other vinegars, which gives a delicious and unique flavor to many soups and dip sauces - just not the same with other vinegars.

And one "secret" ingredient which I have, that is not easy to find, only because I grow it, and haven't found at any market, and even have to save seeds for it, as I haven't found it anywhere in the last 15 years or so. It's a pepper I started growing in the mid 90s - Hanoi Market - which is a uniquely flavored orange pepper, and only one of countless orange varieties I've bought or grown, had a similar flavor, and that was Bulgarian Carrot, which is also much hotter, unfortunately. The Hanoi Market I think was the orange pepper piled up in many of those Asian markets in Entrée To Asia, and many of Andrew Zimmern's and Anthony Bourdain's Asian shows! The flavor is delicious in Thai and Vietnamese dip sauces and soups, that call for fresh peppers. They are also my favorite, as well as some friend, who love it in the guacamole I make, using it as the fresh chile, in place of serranos - not traditional, but delicious. I vacuum seal a few bags every season, to freeze, and always have extras.
 
Think this is going to be a great thread Jade. Thanks!

@pepperhead212
Surely you really want to send me some seeds for the purpose of researching how they grow in the Australian soil?😉
Now, now Jade, don't go asking him to break any laws! :LOL:

Perhaps someone can answer a question I have. Nothing to do with ingredients but method.
Many Asian recipes state to stir/mix "in one direction" An example is when I make a won ton filling, I'm told to stir in one direction until it becomes like a sticky paste.
I always do as instructed but don't know why!
 
It’s a myth @dragnlaw.
Basically it’s been handed down over generations in Asian society.
It comes from the Buddhist tradition that people cook with one hand and toss the wok with the other, meaning that you really can’t stir in different directions.
It’s not going to affect the taste in any way.
 
Funny you should mention that - back when I "lost contact" with those seeds, when the only source I had gotten them from, went out of business, and I had to find them somewhere! I had tried several orange varieties, but they were just like any other. I finally found a source on ebay, that listed Hanoi Market, and had a photo that looked just like it, and the place was in Australia! Ever since that time, I've isolated some, and saved my own seeds. I'll see how many I have left - I know I didn't bag any last season, but I might still have extras. Here's an example of the ripening peppers off just 3 plants. Hanoi Market harvest 8-16-17 by pepperhead212, on Flickr
I'll let you know when I search through my seeds for this season.
 
I’m not sure if you can get it in the States, but if you are making a mince beef and pork mixture for your lasagna, squirt in some HP sauce - it’s killer and everyone will be asking what you used.
 
I figured it had something to do with tradition. and that makes perfect sense!

Yes, I can get HP. I usually put it on the table when having beef of some sort. There is also A1 but the taste is very different. I'm not sure they can get HP in the States though.... after all, it is from the House of Parliament! ;)
 
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When we dive into the rabbit hole that is Asian cuisine, I just want to say that choosing your ingredients is far superior than throwing a bunch of Asian sounding stuff in.
For example - pickled radish is not something that you might have to hand, but it’s a wonderful ingredient in Asian cuisine.
Likewise five spice, but really careful because it’s a big flavour and can quickly ruin the dish.
Fish sauce is imperative - but try to buy the best you can. A lot of fish sauce is imposter, made from rubbish. A good fish sauce is a delight.
Aside from perhaps Mae Ploy, I would always make my own curry paste.
Throwing a few anchovies into any kind of sauce, curry, broth etc always helps. Just reduce the sodium there.
 
...I'm not sure they can get HP in the States though.... after all, it is from the House of Parliament! ;)
Enough grocery chains in MA offer it in the British Section of the International Foods aisle so that you don't have to hunt for it. I don't know if that's true back here in OH, but I guess I'm going to find out!

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A small pinch of pepper in pumpkin pie filling. It gives it that little "something" that's hard to figure out.

And now Mom will haunt my dreams tonight for spilling the salt secret...
 
I used to like HP Sauce and always had it around. But, some years ago they seem to have changed the recipe. The ingredient list now has "glucose-fructose", which is Canadian for "high fructose corn syrup". It's near the top of the list and a bunch of corn starch. It's too sweet and it's gloopy. I really don't like it anymore and it used to be a good sauce.
 
Gosh taxy, it sounds more like you are describing A1 rather than HP.
I personally think perhaps it was the tamarind in the sauce - which, back then, I had never even heard of.

I see Google says HP is sweeter than A1 but I didn't see it that way. Always thought HP was a little more vinegary. Both have tomato but you don't 'see' it in the HP (brown) whereas the A1 is definitely red, with a ketchup like texture compared to the HP runnier sauce.
 

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