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asian flavor reviews

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
aka The Gipper

Joined: 10 June 2003
Location: Chinook Montana
Status: Offline
Points: 14744
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    Posted: 26 August 2009 at 06:48
i got the chance today to purchase and try three things that i've wanted to try for some time. these are all used in asian cooking and up till now have been very hard to get in this community. i will post my observations based on a small sampling of each product by itself.
a) chinese 5-spice powder, made by sun luck - 3.82$ for a 2-oz shaker - for some reason, this product actually contains 6 ingredients: cinnamon, anise, fennel, ginger, clove and licorice root. i suspect that the licorice root is there to bolster the anise and that the two together approximate chinese star anise; i won't guess at the proportions of the ingredients. this spice mixture is used to add flavor to many asian dishes and comes in the form of a light-brown powder. in both aroma and taste, one will find hints at all ingredients; however, it also makes a new flavor all its own. according to the label, it has no nutritional values and also none of the "bad stuff" (fat, cholesterol, sodium or carbs), so as a flavor enhancer, this packs a wallop with no sacrifice and a warm depth with no heat. it is a very interesting and agreeable blend of flavors and i can imagine a number of uses for it.
b) ponzu, made by kikkoman - 3.48$ for a 10-oz bottle - this is basically soy sauce spiked with citrus (in the form of lemon and orange) and bonito extracts. it looks identical to soy sauce and can be used it in it's place. it smells just like soy sauce with a citrus kick and the taste is very good, milder than soy sauce and even slightly refreshing due to the citrus flavors. Nutritionally, the only significant thing it brings to the party is sodium; having said that, it contains much less sodium (400 mg per tablespoon) than even low-sodium soy sauce and has the lowest sodium content of any soy-type sauce i've ever encountered except for sodium-free soy sauce, which is unavailable here. i am willing to bet this sauce will be outstanding for all meats, from fish to poultry to pork to beef to venison, and can easily see myself using this soy sauce to the exclusion of all others from now on.
c) fish sauce, made by thai kitchen - 4.22$ for a 7-oz bottle - known by many names in southeast asia, indonesia and malaysia, including nuoc mam in vietnam, this "fish's gravy" is made from the first pressings of salted and fermented fish (anchovies in this case). it has a dark amber color but is not as dark as soy sauce and is used much the way soy sauce is used in china or japan or as salt is used in the US and europe. i've never smelled anything like it, so i can't describe it, but its definition as a fermented extract of salted fish is a good indicator; i will stress that it does not smell like rotten fish, but there is a definite savory smell that can only come from an aged meat product that is simultaneously assertive, interesting and definitely not bad. the taste is both completely expected and at the same time a complete surprise. expected because it is salty with a bare hint of fish taste, but what i wasn't expecting was a very strong and savory flavor that really has its own character independent of its ingredients. i imagine anyone who is familiar with using anchovy paste in italian cooking or dressings would have some familiarity with this complex and tangy taste that really wouldn't lead a person to guess it was derived from fish. nutritionally, this thing is a nightmare for anyone with high blood pressure (1360mg per tablespoon), but it seems it would be best when used sparingly (a little will go a very long way) anyway, and i am sure that this would add a very savory depth to any sauce used for meats, especially pork but also including all others, and of course it should be at home in any fish recipe. above all, i suggest caution when using this seasoning; it can make a good dish great, but if used improperly it might also make a great dish inedible.
finally, i also got the chance over the last weekend to purchase one more asian ingredient, thai sweet chili sauce. i will provide a similar review as soon as is practicable.
TasunkaWitko - Chinook, Montana

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