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Jan 15, 2008 03:28 AM

Bad tasting ingredients that are good in recipes

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).