Beans and beansprouts: Flavor robbers?
After cooking for many years, I noticed an odd characteristic about beans. If you add them to any dish, the sauce in the dish becomes much more bland. To compensate for this, you have to increase the quantity of salt, chili powder, lemon juice, tarragon, wine--whatever flavoring--to bring the dish back to its original strength. Also, the longer you delay in serving the dish, the blander the dish will become, thereby reqiring the addition of even more flavoring.
I never thought much about it until I was living in Singapore and prepared a lot of Chinese dishes. I had a dish flavor-balanced just the way I wanted it and, shortly before I was going to serve it, I added bean sprouts. When I served the dish at the table, it seemed surprisingly bland and not at all how I remembered it tasting when I had sampled it in the kitchen.
Since then, I have experimented with bean sprouts and have concluded that adding them to a Chinese dish is the equivalent to sprinkling all over the dish a condiment labeled, "BLAND."
Beans I can sort of understand. They are starchy and absorbent and maybe the starch encapsulates the liquid bearing the flavors of a dish. But the bean sprout conundrum is unfathomable to me.
Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon with beans, bean sprouts, or any other food? If so, what do you think causes it and how do you deal with it?
I thought it was my imagination. It's comforting to know that someone else has arrived at a conclusion similar to my own. I'm not well schooled in chemistry, beyond the chemistry of what to expect from foods in the preparation process prior to consumption, but I have come to believe that the "blandness" you describe has something to do with how the bean/bean sprouts affect the taste buds. I'm guessing that beans/bean sprouts mask the flavors of other ingredients making them less evident to the palate. That's because, when increasing the spice/herb/seasoning ingredients to raise the level of flavor in a dish which include beans/bean sprouts the dominant flavor improvement is still the spice/herb ingredient and not the meat/sauce/etc. flavors that I might ordinarily hope to find on top of the list of flavors that deserve to be highlighted.
That said, I have found that dishes prepared with beans/bean sprouts that "age" in the refrigerator for a day or two can, when reheated, have a deeper and more complex variety of flavors than they did when they were freshly cooked.