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Basically Spicy or Basically Plain?

  • c

This question is inspired by a recent Saveur recipe for celery salad. Just celery, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper. Now, while I'm a bit dubious about that specific dish, it did inspire me to wonder: how do chowhounds genrally prefer to eat: layers of spice, complex flavors (think India), or generally simple, what some might call "clean" flavors (think celery salad)? Yes, oversimplification, no, it doesn't mean you can't put nutmeg in apple pie, but, generally, which one do you prefer? Do you eat more of one, but really prefer the other?

Myself, I have to say basicaly plain--but not the celery!

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  1. I like both, especially one with the other. Like Indian food with a simple cucumber raita. Or a dark braised meat with a simple boiled potato.

    1. I made that salad a couple of weeks ago. We thought it was amazing. So simple and so refershing.

      Generally I like spice.

      1. Spice, layered, complex!

        1. Generally I'm more into European-style quick dishes, because that's how I was raised. The dishes generally rely on the ingredients, and one or two herbs, s&p. Oh, and a good imported vegetable bouillon. This adds so much, I don't know why American Knorr tastes like cr**. I recently found a decent version in a Chinese grocery.
          My food's not boring, though at all. ex's: simple egg and ham carbonara, mushroom risotto, baby spinach w/lemon, eggplant beef and egg timbale, roasted peppers or eggplant w/mint, pasta w/capers mint and cream, lentil soup w/ dill or cilantro, variations on all of this and many other vegetable dishes that are not considered "recipes."
          Complex is great if you know what you're doing and have the time. I strongly emphasize "know what you're doing." There's nothing worse than a dish with too many flavors that don't meld.

          1. I'm from the school that a meal should have balance - if possible. An appitizer shouldn't have the same flavor as the main dish.

            There are some dishes that should be simple and crisp - summer dishes in particular. Colder weather is when I start in on my chili and soup and "comfort food".

            One thing I do need complex and layered is my spicy food. Nothing worse than food that is either too hot to taste or potentially eat.

              1. Although I like plain food, I prefer spice. My fiance is the exact opposite. I need two spice racks because I can't fit everything onto one, while his basic spices are salt, pepper, basil, oregano and thyme.

                1. I swing wildly between the two extremes. Sometimes I'll crave something that requires me to open half the spice jars in my drawer and needs to cook for 8 hours to develop all the flavors, and other days you'll see me eating plain rice and plain vegetables (and not because I'm lazy, but because I'm craving it).

                  You know what they say about variety!

                  1. Certainly both.

                    They both have their places and to me, it seems to be mostly based on the seasons. The more complex layered dishes are for the winter. The stews, gumbos and that kinda stick to your ribs comfort foods. During the summer, there's not much better than sitting out on a warm night with a nicely grilled fish and a caprese salad.


                    1. Many of my friends can't understand that I like very spicy except for Japanese food, which is the epitome of clean flavors. Of course, they're also flabbergasted if they drive with me here in Colombia and there in the US--like all the rest of the demon maniacs in the former and like a solid citizen in the latter.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Although I enjoy Japanese fairly often, I got bored of eating in Japan pretty quickly. Although there were definite budget/language issues there too, preventing me from fully exploring the cuisine, that was when I realized how much I really preferred layered, spicy dishes. I'm always taken aback when people describe something as "spicy" and mean it as a negative!

                        1. re: julesrules

                          "Problem" is is that I'm Japanese. Result is that I, of corse, love Japanese food, and love it prepared as we're always done it. Your eating in Japan is probably like my eating in the Philippines, Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Cambodia. Nicaragua, Uganda, Lesotho,...boring or worse after a bit.

                      2. I usually prefer spicy. I like simple breads, but most savory dishes I prefer to have layers of spice.

                        1. For me it totally depends on what is best for the dish, and that's especially true of "ethnic" cuisines, such as Thai. So if a waiter asks "how spicy?" I'd like to tell him "whatever is best". I mean, a great painter wouldn't ask you how much blue or red you like, a great composer wouldn't say, "So... would you like a lot of violins with this symphony?" It's a neat vision, though, buying a painting from Van Gogh when he was still alive and telling his brother Theo you want a lot of red in it, and Theo shouting, "Yo! Yo, VINNIE!! ONE PEASANT COTTAGE, HOLD THE BLUE, EXTRA RED!!!"

                          1. I prefer clean flavours, though a complex dish is often a thing of great deliciousness!

                            1. Unrealistic question for the context. Chowhounds like what tastes good, so they would be unlikely to prefer a complex hamburger or a simple mole, because neither would taste very good, or real.

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