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Bad tasting ingredients that are good in recipes

  • p

Hi, I'm thinking about adopting a philosophy of "If it tastes bad on its own, it's going to taste bad in the recipe". And I'm talking about things that are simply BAD. I'm not talking about things like vinegar or anchovie paste that obviously are obviously unpleasant if consumed straight. You can still tell from instinct that the items will work in a dish, even though they taste unpleasant on their own.

I've been using some newer ingredients I'm not used to, and one experience that comes to mind is Tamarind Concentrate. It just doesn't taste good, and I don't see how it can taste good in anything. And it's not that I don't like tamarind, it's just that I got this really funky flavor from it as well. And no, there was nothing wrong with it. So I use it hoping it will magically work in a recipe for Vindaloo, and sure enough, it tasted very yucky. Fortunately, I was able to salvage some edible food with a lot of lime and curry powder. I'll try tamarind paste next time and hopefully get better results.

So guys, are there ingredients out there that you think are downright bad, but they somehow work in a recipe?

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  1. My MIL makes great spam fried rice. She's probably one of the best cooks I know, puts together the best Chinese New Year dinners with 20+ dishes, can feed 20 a near gourmet meal with little notice. Somehow spam, which I can't eat plain (is it eaten plain?), works in her fried rice.

    But, whether something will work in a dish is such a personal preference. I have the same feeling about anchovy paste that you do about tamarind concentrate. Personally, I don't like cocoa powder, but what amazing things you can do with it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chowser

      of course spam is eaten plain... sliced thin and fried like bacon... or a little thicker in a spam and egg sandwhich... ummmmm here is a link on spam from a few months ago

    2. Tamarind concentrate (mixed with some water) is a decent substitute for Tamarind paste (which I'm guessing you also don't like) in Pad Thai. The end-dish tastes great, although I doubt I would use the paste as a dip...

      1 Reply
      1. re: bnemes3343

        I just had tamarind chutney for lunch at an Indian restaurant today. It was very good, although it looked like mud. ;-)

      2. Fresh currants on their own = not so good, baked in stuff = quite nice.

        I also like tamarind concentrate on it's own. It's very sour.. but I love sour. My husband couldn't take it, though.. even when I added it to my leftover pad thai.

        1. Fish sauce and dark (hacho) miso come to mind...

          3 Replies
          1. re: Richard 16

            Fish sauce came to my mind as soon as I read the title.

            1. re: Kelli2006

              Me three-- I was just about to post FISH SAUCE. Friends who aren't in-the-know about this stuff seem truly horrified and repulsed when they see the big bottle looming over my arrangement of cute little oils and vinegars...

              1. re: foxy fairy

                I first smelled fish sauce when our church sponsored Laotian immigrants in the mid 70's. I thought it was a landfill in a bottle when I smelled it.

                My daughter has a college room-mate from Hong Kong and she spent last summer with us, instead of flying back home. I daughter her how to cook western dishes, and she taught me how to cook regional dishes, but the smell is still something of a acquired taste.

                I do have a small bottle, but it is kept inside a double layer zip-bag, just in case it breaks. The first time I took her to a local Chinese market, the flavors were a revelation for me.

          2. a lot of people hate Marmite but it's good if you put a teaspoon into a stew. (me I love Marmite).

            1. Fish sauce and shrimp paste with the latter being one of the smelliest item I have ever encountered but is essential to certain curries

              5 Replies
                1. re: dolores

                  Maybe I'm misunderstanding your post...but simple preparations of okra can be terrific.

                  If we want to get into all things that are not exactly great unless seasoned and/or cooked, this thread could go on and on--common ingredients like chicken thighs, eggplant, and artichokes spring to mind.

                  1. re: hohokam

                    But if okra isn't coated and fried, or mixed in a gumbo, okra steamed is good? It's not something I would eat.

                    I thought it was a question on ingredients that a particular person found odious. For example, I eat tomato paste out of the can.

                    1. re: dolores

                      Well, steamed okra wouldn't be my preferred prep, but I could imagine eating it, seasoned with a little salt and pepper.

                      Boiled chicken isn't great either, but I've eaten it without retching. ;-)

                      To me, the thought of eating plain okra isn't anywhere nearly as disgusting as the thought of throwing down a shot glass of fish sauce. So, I guess it is just a matter personal judgments of odiousness.

                      1. re: hohokam

                        I eat canned okra as is - I always steal a few pieces before I dump the contents into soup or whatever.

              1. Sort of not sure how to answer because the ingredients that come my mind are things I wouldn't eat on their own anyway. They are meant to enhance and complete dishes.
                But along with the myriad of Asian condiments like oyster sauce, nuoc mam and the like. I don't think I'd eat tomato paste on its own.

                1. Two of mine are cilantro and anchovies - I do not like them solo but love them in dishes.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Tom P

                    see and i can just eat cilantro leaves like lettuce (or candy or something). man i love cilantro. :) anchovies are creepy though - but i do like an occasional ceasar salad.

                  2. ...mmm.. anchovy paste... yummy!
                    A really good balsalmic vinegar makes a great cordial.
                    And tamarind (the ready prepped stuff isn't quite as good as the home made) - one of my favourite things, especially with okra (see later posts), with a little sugar, garlic, more garlic and a little turmeric and cumin, and more garlic.

                    Fermented tofu stinks and tasted foul (to me) - so no help there.

                    Asofoetida smells vile but in tiny qualtities adds a certain something to a curry.
                    Thai/Chinese dried shrimp also stink, but are yummy.
                    I'd not want to taste either of them 'raw' though.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Peg

                      agree with you on asofoetida...my kids tell me that it smells like fetid ass...whatever that smells like...though in indian food, it's super good.

                    2. Black Salt - smells awful, but it addes umami to Indian food!

                      1. Turmeric is tough to take on it's own, but adds that somethin' somethin' to many dishes (just had it in my lentil soup)--and it's good for you, too!

                        1. I like the creativity of your post! And I think I know a good thing to suggest. Flour and yeast. Either one on it's own is horrible! Who would put either of those things in one's mouth plain? But add water and a bit of salt...and pure magic happens! That's what I'm talking about.

                          1. I actually love tamarind concentrate, and sometimes dilute some in a glass of water to drink. So I guess different strokes or whatever.

                            As you said, you don't include "obviously" bad-tasting things like anchovy paste (and I guess shrimp paste and fish sauce go into that category too). You mean actual foods or major ingredients? But then tamarind is a seasoning, just like anchovies...

                            My number one thing that might fit the bill is celery. Hate the stuff, but I wouldn't make a chicken stock, or a lot of other things, without it.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Kagey

                              jugo/agua de tamarindo -- one of my favorites too. I could slurp up the tamarind dipping sauce at the Indian place, too :) and my favorite flavor from the ice cream lady with the cart is TAMARIND. Yum. I like tart flavors, though.