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What's Your Secret Ingredient?

I'm curious to know if other people have go-to ingredients they use to add a little extra flavor dimension to food. Some examples: nutmeg in creamy sauces or with various vegetables, lemon juice in or on almost anything, a little balsamic in a soup or stew.

Beyond salt and pepper, which can do good things for many dishes, what do you use? Is there an ingredient you added as an experiment, only to discover it took a favorite dish to new heights?

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  1. Lemon and parsley are my two favorite last-minute flavor boosters. Usually brightens the idsh considerably.

    1. besides the ones that you mentioned (lemon juice, balsamic), I often add a little bit of worchester sauce to soups, stews, etc. to give a little zing

      1. mustard.

        i add colman's powdered mustard to quiches and soups (when i'm sauteeing whatever veggies go in it), i added it to braised pork and butternut squash soup over the weekend, with excellent results. i don't even love mustard, but something about the colman's spicy powder that adds a little zing to stuff.

        1. Toasted caraway seeds to my cabbage soup and sweet and sour rolled meat in cabbage

          1. Mushroom Soy

            Adds depth to soups and stews, flavors stir frys

            1. Two come to mind immediately: mixed fresh herbs, and Sriracha.

              11 Replies
              1. re: phofiend

                yes... sriracha is one of my favs as well..

                1. re: swsidejim

                  Forgive my ignorance, what is Sriracha?

                    1. re: SuzMiCo

                      Vietnamese hot sauce made with chilis and garlic. I like it because it is not so hot that I can not eat it plain. Try it in your next bloody mary.

                      If it's not a curry dish to begin with, curry powder is a good secret ingredient. Don't overdo it or it won't be a secret.

                      1. re: atheorist

                        You must have an asbestos lined mouth. I love the stuff but it's hot.


                        1. re: Davwud

                          It is hotter than he made it sound (e.g. I'm not about to take spoonfuls of it) but you certainly could use it instead of Ketchup on a hotdog.

                        2. re: atheorist

                          could i ask what you add curry to?

                          1. re: kare_raisu

                            steamed vegetables, beets, especially braised cabbage
                            sauteed onions, mushrooms, and or peppers for steak or burger topping
                            soups, borscht,
                            I like more than a secret amount in Campbells tomato soup

                            1. re: kare_raisu

                              Also, curried warm egg salad. YMMMMM.

                          2. re: SuzMiCo

                            I meant to also post this, which should give you some great ideas for using it:

                      2. Boyajian flavored oils. The fruit, garlic, basil, chili, have not bought the wasabi but those things are gold mines in bottles for a quick tweak. They have a website and take orders but I have been able to find them in good kitchen shops.

                        1. Anchovy paste -- I keep a tube in my fridge and squeeze it into everything from soups to sauteed vegetables to scrambled eggs. It adds a touch of salt and a depth of flavor that is incomparable.

                            1. Red lentils - I add them to soups and stews at the beginning of cooking. They melt into the soup/stew, providing some nice flavour, but I use them mostly for their thickening powers - instead of flour or other thickeners.

                              1. I always keep a container of sherry with chilis marinating in it. I always add a splash to soups and stews at the end of cooking.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: MzMaggie

                                  sherry has been one of my "go to" flavors for about a year now. marinating chilis in it is genius. I'll be sure to get some at the next farmer's market. thanks for the post

                                  1. re: frankiii

                                    Ginger sherry is good too - especially for asian dishes.

                                  2. good ol' msg or pickle juice

                                    1. I keep a bottle of garlic salt with parsley(Durkee)near the stove. I sprinkle it on hamburgers and it's great on a quick stir fry.

                                      1. Caraway seed in bean salads.

                                        Peanut butter in squash/carrot soup (as long as nut allergies are not a concern).

                                        Lime juice in red lentil soup.

                                        Kimchee for burgers.

                                        1. Lea and Perrins White Wine Worcestershire Sauce. Great in fish or chicken dishes.

                                          Spanish Pimentón de La Vera, a rich, smoky paprika, available in sweet, medium or picante varieties. This is one of my most favorite seasonings ever.

                                          Lime juice squeezed on fresh cooked or raw vegetables and in soups. It's a Mexican thing.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Anonimo

                                            so, what are the different ways you use the pimenton?

                                            1. re: niki rothman

                                              I'm interested to know, too.
                                              I've started to use pimenton in all of my dredges for braised meats, I use it in a rub for sauteed chicken, I have been known to incorporate it into eggs and rice dishes-
                                              I throw it in anywhere I want a smoky character and don't have bacon.
                                              I like the hot style, but the sweet is great, too.

                                              As for an answer to the original post: Lemon juice, bacon, sherry vinegar, truffle oil, and duck fat- depending on the dish!

                                              1. re: niki rothman

                                                Pimentón is great on skillet fried potatoes, in bean stews or soups (as in its natural element of fabadas); yesterday I used a little in the butter-garlic-cheese spread for garlic bread. Anywhere you want a smoky, slightly hot flavor, it works well, but at a much lower, subtler intensity than chiles chipotles, which I also like, but not as extensively. I might try it in tomato sauce for pasta. It would work in a sauteed shrimp dish, and it's a nice way of spiking cream sauces for some foods.
                                                And, don't forget it it on popcorn, along with parmesan type cheese!

                                            2. Anchovies, especially in red sauces. (Absolutely terrific in Chicken caccitore.) When used sparingly, they add subtle flavor to a variety of sauces.

                                              1. A big pinch of sugar, a little salt, and a tiny bit of butter make steamed veg. like carrots and string beans taste really good. Otherwise, if I think something I've cooked needs a little something but I'm not sure what, I'll always go right for the lemon and squeeze in some juice.

                                                1. Sumac !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                  Its the most fantastic spice ...lemon flavoured, great fro marinading red meat especially venison...don't cook the venison past medium as it tastes like kidneys.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: kiwichef

                                                    I agree about sumac.

                                                    I also use chopped up preserved lemons that I make and keep in the fridge (they last muchhhh longer than recipes say) - they're great in fish soup.

                                                    I also love chili oil - a dash in soup or almost anything adds some zing.

                                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                                      Really? Mine moulded almost immediately! I must have got something in the jar that caused it. I'll try again, I love preserved lemons, and they look so pretty in the jar.

                                                      1. re: prunefeet

                                                        I made preserved lemons once, and they were delic!! (for middle eastern food)

                                                        1. re: bbc

                                                          Where did you get the recipe for preserved lemons? I'm interested to try.

                                                          1. re: bruce

                                                            It was in the back of a recipe book of middle eastern food (with recipes calling for them) by Claudia Roden, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Here's a link:

                                                            If you don't want to buy the book I can post it later. I remember it being quite easy - just a matter of cutting lemons, & dredging them slightly in salt/sugar (honestly can't remember which one) & then shoving them into a jar & filling it with lemon juice. It takes a little time, but it's not difficult.


                                                  2. I make extensive use of some strongly flavored sauces and other items, adding just a couple of drops to punch up the flavor. If you can recognize the sauces are there, you've used too much.

                                                    - a bit of glace de viand, stirred in at the end
                                                    - bottled ginger juice, www.gingerpeople.com
                                                    - Angostura Bitters
                                                    - Outerbridge's Sherry Peppers Sauce
                                                    - Olivier & Co. basil-flavored olive oil
                                                    - 1/4 clove of garlic, chopped fine and sizzled in butter or olive oil for a few seconds
                                                    - a teaspoon of slivered almonds, lightly browned in a dry pan
                                                    - 1 tablespoon of sour cream, yogurt or labnee, stirred in at the end
                                                    - a teaspoon of Parmagianno-Reggiano grated over vegetables just before serving
                                                    - and finally, for almost everything, a knob of butter, stirred in at the end

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: KRS

                                                      Angostura Bitters is good in pumpkin pie and its cousins.

                                                    2. Vinegar: A dash in sauteed vegetables makes the flavors pop.

                                                      Sesame seeds: Learned from the Moosewood cookbook's banana bread recipe - Grease the pan and coat with sesame seeds before putting the batter in. I do this with some other quick breads for a nice nutty-flavored crust. They also soak/mash the bananas in brewed coffee. This deepens the flavor too.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. High quality anchovies in place of salt in a cooked dish - they melt with cooking and provide incredible complexity that makes people ask, "Why is this so good?" Be careful of people with fish allergy.

                                                        Finely crushed red pepper at the level that it can't be recognized as anything but a tingle.

                                                        Lemon zest for lemon flavor (especially with green vegetables), lemon juice for acidity that is gentler than most vinegars.

                                                        Salt packed capers.

                                                        1. I make a ... well, rub, I guess. 3-4 really ripe sweet red peppers and a bulb of garlic. Clean and peel everything and slice thin. Leave in a food dehydrator overnight til it's brittle, and process to powder in the food processor. It goes into anything savory.

                                                          1. I love this question!

                                                            I would second all of the mentionings of anything spicy - a dash of hot sauce, pepper or mustard are all on my list.

                                                            For the beginning of anything: shallots. They add that "what is that taste" dimension for me.

                                                            For all baked goods and for many stovetop combinations: allspice. True to it's name, in my opinion.

                                                            1. Sesame oil, lime, cilantro, ..cinnamon & cocoa in savory dishes

                                                                1. maggi, the imported, not the domestic.

                                                                  1. Nothing fancy for me:

                                                                    - extra vanilla extract
                                                                    - appropriate vinegar (i.e., knowing when to reach for rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, etc.)
                                                                    - a knob of butter to finish
                                                                    - aleppo pepper
                                                                    - a squirt of lemon

                                                                    1. Oyster sauce, just a blob, added to stir-fried Chinese greens in place of salt. It adds a bit of complexity to the dish which is hard to describe.

                                                                      I use stock in soups, stews, curries in place of water almost always. It enhances flavor tremendously. People rave about my fish chowders and I always tell them it's because of the fish stock but no-one believes it's that simple.

                                                                      As other have said, smoked paprike really enhances lots of dishes. A bit of ground chipotle en adobo can make a dish pop with lively flavors. Personally I think everything tastes better with hot bean paste or chile garlic beans which I use in place of a spread on sandwiches (just for me and DH, most of our friends aren't that fond of chiles).

                                                                      1. A pinch of sugar in almost everything savory.

                                                                        A pinch of salt in almost everything sweet.

                                                                        1. Urfa, sort of smokey, slightly hot pepper flakes from Turkey with an incredible depth of flavor. It's sold here by a few purveyors at prohibitive (for me) cost but a Turkish friend always comes home with a kilo bag and shares freely.

                                                                          1. five spice powder on brisket...everyone always wonders what makes mine so distinctive

                                                                            1. Nutmeg. I add it to many recipes where it isn't listed as an ingredient and receive many "what did you add that tastes so good" as a result.

                                                                              1. Yes, on a bit o butter to finish sauces. I think I learned this from Marcella Hazan. A little butter in a big pot of tomato sauce (or a curry) won't do any health harm and adds so much texture and taste.

                                                                                Also, adding an extra clove of crushed garlic toward the end of the cooking process. With vegetables, curries, stews, pasta sauces etc. it adds a nice punch.

                                                                                1. fish sauce (usually nampla) instead of salt

                                                                                  any one of several flavoured vinegars

                                                                                  1. Anchovies - all rich sauces
                                                                                    Chipotle Chiles - anything that needs kick with depth
                                                                                    Fish Sauce - All Asian dishes, especially salad dressings
                                                                                    All kinds of vinegar - At the end to give a lift
                                                                                    Instant Espresso powder - in chili
                                                                                    Cacao powder - in chili

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Mila

                                                                                      Mila - you listed my faves! Fish sauce can sub when I'm out of anchovy, and I always have a tub of bagna cauda in the freezer. I also add espresso powder to chocolate, espresso powder to spice rubs, ancho chili powder to chocolate, and chipotle powder to everything!

                                                                                    2. This is a great topic!
                                                                                      Mine is herbes de provence -- if that flavour is appropriate to the dish, I find it a great addition to quick dishes. Same with grains of paradise, just a little extra flavour punch.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: WineWidow

                                                                                        herbs de provence is a good one, use it all the time for soups, chicken dishes, lamb, pork, beans, split pea soup, I could go on...

                                                                                      2. Savory recipes,

                                                                                        Red or cider or rice wine vinegar
                                                                                        red or white wine
                                                                                        sherry or marsala

                                                                                        French butter
                                                                                        double strength vanilla
                                                                                        extra fresh ground nutmeg
                                                                                        fresh ground white pepper
                                                                                        Fiori De Sicilia (king Arthur baking catalog)
                                                                                        spiced rum or bourbon

                                                                                        1. I agree with a lot of ingredients already posted. Soy sauce is good in almost everythign (esp salad dressing), mustard, parsley, nutmeg, L&P's white wine worcestershire is great with fish, but I can't find it anymore. Lemon or vinegar in soup. I'm intrigued by the sherry with peppers idea (what kind of sherry do you suggest) and the red lentil idea too...

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: prunefeet

                                                                                            Outerbridge's Sherry Peppers. I discovered them years ago in a famous New York Magazine article, "The Heat of the Bite," where it was #1. I'm told this is the most frequently referenced NYM article.

                                                                                            1. re: KRS

                                                                                              Oh! I thought you bought sherry and steeped peppers in it. I will look for Outerbridge sherry peppers for sure.

                                                                                          2. In talking about this thread with my BF, he piped up that his secret ingredient is Molasses. He'll add a dab to every meat rub and sauce and it is quite rich and deep.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: Carrie 218

                                                                                              Molasses or Cany Syrup are wondeful additions to a lot of dishes. I totally agree with this one

                                                                                            2. Sazon
                                                                                              Lemon Grass

                                                                                                  1. xyz, you can print this all out by clicking on "expand all" at the top of the page and then printing the whole thing. It's not a perfect solution, but it'll work.

                                                                                                    1. Secret ingredient not secret technique! But it's all good.

                                                                                                      In windows at least, hold the left button of the mouse down at the beginning of whatever text you want to copy, drag down to the end and let the button go. "Control-C" or right click and then "copy." Open any word processor and do "control-V" or right click and "paste."

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: xyz_recipes

                                                                                                        You can use saffron to add a floral flavor to almost any dish,especially those that contain a sauce of some kind. The trick with it is to use very little amounts, meaning like a small pinch for a large stew or something. It is very expensive and also very strong.

                                                                                                        1. re: xyz_recipes

                                                                                                          the key to making a little saffron go a long way is to soak a pinch of the tiny wicked-expensive strands in a HOT LIQUID, preferably a gorgeous homemade stock or broth or hot milk (whole milk) or cream for 10-20 minutes-- the flavor will saturate the whole dish when the liquid is added. try it in a familiar recipe to check out the flavor. :)

                                                                                                        2. Try clicking on the arrow next to "Topic Options" on the upper right, next to "Home Cooking" heading. A "Print" option should appear.

                                                                                                          1. Rice vinegar in chicken stock.

                                                                                                            1. I agree with tons of the above too - love fish sauce and cardamom. Also think ginger is underused (big slices that you can pull out) in stirfrys, and shaoxing wine - kind of like sherry - for infusing meat dishes. dark, dark soy sauce + sichuan peppercorns to numb your palette completely!!

                                                                                                              For non-Asian, I love marjoram for some reason.
                                                                                                              And butter. Oh, and bacon grease - for veggies (Asian).

                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: bbc

                                                                                                                Re: Cardamom

                                                                                                                The best coffee I've ever tasted came from a Middle Eastern restaurant. After my inquisition, I found out that they grind their coffee beans with a few cardamom seeds.

                                                                                                                1. re: mamaciita

                                                                                                                  YUM. I'll have to try that. Someone told me about an ice cream place that makes green tea/cardamom ice cream, but I haven't tried it. Thanks!!

                                                                                                                  1. re: bbc

                                                                                                                    Yes yes yes - I actually take Barry's or PG Tips tea bags with me whenever I go on trips and have a jar of cardamom pods with me almost at all times. I just can't take tea or coffee without it now - and I've even hooked a few people in my office too. Even the horrible tea they give you in hotel rooms for you to make for yourself can be greatly improved by going for the pod. Many an electric kettle I have left in hotel/motel rooms with a permanent cardamom flavouring by adding it to the water as it boiled.
                                                                                                                    One other thing I tasted spectacular orange-cardamom flavoured dark chocolate from a Belgian chocolatier in Prince's Square in Glasgow Scotland last year - alas they were sold out this year on my annual trip.

                                                                                                                    1. re: butterchicken2nan

                                                                                                                      That reminds me. . .I had Black Pepper-Cardamom ice cream in Chicago a few years ago. Talk about a memorable experience. . .

                                                                                                              2. Since fish sauce isn't much of a secret to chowhounds, I'll add chervil as an herb and duckfat as a substitute for butter when sauteing.

                                                                                                                1. This is a fantastic topic and thanks everyone for sharing your now-no-longer-secret ingredients! I'm too late to add anything new, so I'll second what's been mentioned already: shallots to start a savory dish; cilantro to finish it; and butter in just about anything. Also, cilantro and lime juice as a marinade for chicken or fish.

                                                                                                                  1. I don't think any one has mentioned bay leaves. I don't make anything soupy or saucy without them. It is the one thing that I put in almost everything.

                                                                                                                    1. I use a lot of what Rachael Ray describes as "grill seasoning." After I realized what it is, I found it in a dizzying array of flavors. Good on steamed/broiled/roasted/grilled meat and veg.

                                                                                                                      1. Crazy Jane's helps most everything!

                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: nosey

                                                                                                                          I had to scroll down a loooong way to find it...but someone did beat me to it. Have used Crazy Jane's for decades....and hooked the whole clan on it as well!!

                                                                                                                          1. re: LoN

                                                                                                                            A friend swears my husband has some major secret ingredient in his chili. The only thing he puts in that is not "normal" is Janes. we use it in every recipe that "needs something".

                                                                                                                        2. Some really nice music in the background and love -

                                                                                                                          a lot of garlic helps too!

                                                                                                                          1. I also use just a hint of soy, worcestershire, balsamic or sherry vinegar to perk things up. The most unusual one is something called "Mushroom seasoning".From Taiwan- it is in a smal granular form. Touted as a sub for the evil MSG. Ingredient list is mushroom powder, salt, vegetable extract, mushroom extract & sodium 5' guanylate. I'm thinking there is some "natural" MSG going on- but it makes a big diff. My son just requested chicken soup consisting of Maggi chicken powder (I KNOW that has MSG)& elbow macaroni. I added a drop of worcestershire and a pinch of the mushroom stuff and it was dramatically different than just the broth powder. Of course I did venture into the dark backyard & pluck some late parsley to tear over top....

                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: torty

                                                                                                                              YES! Mine doesn't have that other stuff, though. It's just a grinder jar of dried portabella mushrooms. It's a great way to add that umami/savory quality to lots of things. Seems to make everything a little bit richer. I love this stuff!

                                                                                                                              1. re: juster

                                                                                                                                I do the same thing with "dried shiitake dust". Just get some dried shiitake, and break them into 1/2" pieces into a spice grinder. (don't use the rockhard stem, just the dried cap). Pulverize in the grinder.

                                                                                                                                The resulting dust is magic stuff. It goes into every ragu or full-bodied soup.

                                                                                                                            2. Easy - Shallots. Thats it. Takes the dish to 11.

                                                                                                                                1. A touch of almond extract and a grate or two of fresh nutmeg in most baked goods, but especially in white cakes, pancakes and sugar cookies.

                                                                                                                                  1. What a treasure trove! I like (real) anchovy or a squeeze from a tube of sun dried tomato paste for depth, a bit of horseradish or wasabi for mysterious zest, and shallots for a good base.

                                                                                                                                    1. MSG.....joking, although I do have some in my cabinet.....Siracha, anchovies, veggie or chicken broth, shallots, zest, and love!

                                                                                                                                      1. Worcestershire sauce (which is made from anchovies)
                                                                                                                                        Preserved Lemons -- to prevent mold, top off with a baggie full of water.
                                                                                                                                        Ginger vinegar, from preserved ginger following Barbara Tropp's recipe in China Moon is always on hand and a major flavor enhancer.

                                                                                                                                        1. I recently discovered the magic of orange zest in savory dishes: it lends a kind of mysterious brightness to both tapenade and braised beef or lamb.

                                                                                                                                          Thanks to all for the great ideas...

                                                                                                                                            1. soy sauce is pretty good to add a salty flavor to anything, as well as that dark caramel color. also... try using a flavored vinegar instead of lemon juice, it works pretty great. i like tarragon vinegar in most dishes, and apple cider vinegar in sweeter ones.

                                                                                                                                              1. Celery seed in baked beans.

                                                                                                                                                1. Top Ramen shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh dont tell anybody,all the Pho resturants will be angry when they find out I told there secret ingredient to there 6$ soup.Good with Char Siu,Swiss Chard,dash of five spice powder squeeze of lemon and a drip of Sirachi sauce.Sometimes I add fresh rice noodles to the Top Ramen.Million variations on this.

                                                                                                                                                  1. Old Bay! It's so good in just about everything!
                                                                                                                                                    chipotle powder (just a touch adds smokiness w/out heat)
                                                                                                                                                    anchovy paste
                                                                                                                                                    penzey's northwoods spice mix
                                                                                                                                                    and of course, lemon. In everything.

                                                                                                                                                    1. Other people have said these, but--
                                                                                                                                                      smoked paprika
                                                                                                                                                      alepppo pepper

                                                                                                                                                      1. Oyster Sauce on steamed greens and in Ramen Bowls
                                                                                                                                                        Balsamic vinegar...add a dash to meat gravy (not milk gravy)
                                                                                                                                                        Sugar.....add a teaspoon to homemade italian dressing
                                                                                                                                                        McCormicks Montreal Seasoning

                                                                                                                                                          1. There is a lot of interesting stuff here. I put a shot or 2 or 3 of Tabasco in just about everything savory. I also like to use left over mashed potatoes to thicken soups and sauces. It works just as well as corn starch or roux and you don't get the flour-ey taste and texture.

                                                                                                                                                            1. This isn't strictly an ingredient, but more of a technique, I guess. Deglaze almost anything with cognac, and the reaction you'll get is WOW! I do this after browning a trinity, mushrooms, or any meat or poultry. You can brown some veggies in a little oil, deglaze with cognac, and add canned soup to it, if you're so inclined. It works wonder, that alcohol!

                                                                                                                                                              I'm also big on paprika right now. It's good in a number of things, from egg salad to potato soup to sauces.

                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: amyzan

                                                                                                                                                                I love paprika too, and one thing I was taught by a Hungarian is to add it to pork - even just ham - I wouldn't have immediately thought of that. I even add it to flour mixtures that I coat meat with (even fried chicken).

                                                                                                                                                                The deglazing with cognac sounds fantastic. What's the actual taste or texture that makes it so good? Sweet? Just perfectly cooked? Just curious.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: bbc

                                                                                                                                                                  It's a little sweet, but also just sort of deepens or hgihlights the flavor of whatever you've made.

                                                                                                                                                              2. My favorite is fyra kryddor - my mom goes to Sweden every few years and brings me back a few bottles. I use it for a ton of dishes. It gives a great flavor to just about any meat/poultry and vegetables as well.

                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Missy2U

                                                                                                                                                                  could you tell me more about this ingredient?

                                                                                                                                                                2. definately MISO. the japanese fermented soybean paste-stuff. if you can find a good quality (hopefully UNpasteurized version) one, you can throw into soups at the end, sauteing veg in a pan at the end etc etc. of course, the old hot water with some green onions in it classic japanese style works so well, too. but with anything itll add this great, usually unknown dimension to your dishes. just remember to go easy on the salt when seasoning because miso is quite salty all on its own.

                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ben61820

                                                                                                                                                                    i like it with butter and steamed or mashed potatoes

                                                                                                                                                                  2. Fry garlic,bacon with olive oil till golden brown,then add to cooked noodles.Put cheese on top,then keep on low burner till melted.Best eaten in an emergency room.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. I cannot resist unusual ethnic spices and sauces in a bottle or bag. I recently was in a Filipino market/deli and bought "Banana Sauce".
                                                                                                                                                                      Has anyone tried it???

                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                                                                                                        Once...I think its called Jufran. Pretty sweet and artificial dyes.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. Chef chicklet: No, have never heard of the Banana Sauce, but I'm curious. What's in it? How does it taste--or are you waiting to try it?

                                                                                                                                                                        Also, I am a big fan of garam masala and smuggle cardamom into just about anything I can--especially rice and chicken dishes and anything coffee-, tea- or chocolate-flavored.

                                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: lisacs

                                                                                                                                                                          do you have to open the pod for pilafs?

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: kare_raisu

                                                                                                                                                                            Hi, I usually don't but will sometimes bruise the pods a little to release some of the flavor. Most of the biryani and pilau recipes I have saute the rice in a little butter/ghee or oil; I throw the cardamom and any other whole spices in right at the beginning so they can infuse the oil a bit. Subtle, maybe, but it works.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. bacon fat.
                                                                                                                                                                          not really healthy, but it makes anything taste better.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. My mainstays are avocado oil, karengo seasoning and smoked paprika ( hot and sweet varieties) but not all at once!

                                                                                                                                                                            1. Crushed hot peppers in vinegar...I add them to the frying onions for all my sauces and gravies. I am also a big fan of nutmeg and cinnamon, even when you think they would be weird. A touch works.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. instant dashi, msg sub. fantastic in japanese fried rice, chahan- gives slightly smokey taste.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. This is a terrific topic. I think all of mine have been mentioned already...

                                                                                                                                                                                  cardamom-it's my secret substitution for cloves in carrot cake, I also add extra cardamom instead of cloves when I make my own chai...hmmm, do you see a pattern? I wonder if I should try studding the Christmas ham with it? It's also fantastic with fruit, yogurt and rice pudding.

                                                                                                                                                                                  sriracha-not sure how we ever lived without it

                                                                                                                                                                                  smoked paprika-when I want a subtle smoky or roasted flavor

                                                                                                                                                                                  and definitely a little squeeze of lemon to brighten a dish before serving.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. red wine/ balsamic vinegar
                                                                                                                                                                                    lemon juice
                                                                                                                                                                                    garam masala
                                                                                                                                                                                    curry powder

                                                                                                                                                                                    just don't add them all to the same dish!

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I enjoy using a traditional Portuguese sauce/marinade called "Molho de Piri-Piri", which is usually a combination of olive oil, ground piri-piris (a type of chili, so you can substitute piquin or Thai chiles), paprika, garlic, salt and oregano. I make my own, store in the fridge for a few days so the flavors meld and then use in sauces, marinades, soups, stews and a number of savory dishes.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. A tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar added to blueberry pie (instead of lemon or whatever) takes it into a new and much, much better dimension. That and make sure there's enough salt in your chocolate.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Latesly been using a high quality sherry wine vinegar for salads and deglazing purposes. absolute heaven.

                                                                                                                                                                                            partial to anchovies for years - make a simple pasta tossed with sauteed arugula, garlic and anchovies that rocks.

                                                                                                                                                                                            i'm also a very big fan of certain asian ingredients, which when used judiciously, can really add character - especially lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, thai basil, shrimp paste, and good fish sauce.

                                                                                                                                                                                            nothing beats good french demi sel butter.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. When in doubt, cover anything savoury in a snowstorm of grated parmesan.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. tamari for depth of flavor. but lemon juice is what i couldn't live without.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. A favorite of mine that hasn't been mentioned: Lawry's seasoning salt. It's salty and sweet and interesting in the place of salt. Though to really do it justice, it should sprinkled over popcorn or other starchy, fresh out of the oil fried treats.