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Is there really anything that is truly "flavorless"?

People will say things like, "this dish is flavorless" when in fact it is just not true, and most likely hyperbole.

What they really mean is that the dish lacks flavor, but is not truly without any flavor.

So with that said, is there any thing out there -- either a dish or an ingredient -- that is truly without any flavor whatsoever?

Even something as bland as rice has some flavor to it -- be it a bit nutty, or a tad sweet. Rice, even in it's most neutered and adulterated form as parboiled rice, has some flavor to it (maybe not good flavor, but flavor nonetheless).

And water, that bland liquid from our faucet, certainly cannot be said to be flavorless, right? I, for one, can discern distinct flavor permutations between the tap from different municipalities that I've visited and lived at.

And one of my former bosses swore he could tell the difference between Evian and other bottled waters. When called on it, he passed a blind taste test. So, yes, I guess water is not without flavor.

What say you? Is there anything that is truly flavorless?

Gelatin maybe?

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  1. I think freshly distilled water might be a candidate. Not the stuff that's been in a plastic bottle, surely, but newly made, straight from the still into a glass. If it can't be said to be utterly flavorless, it could be considered a sort of baseline for neutral flavor.

    14 Replies
    1. re: eclecticsynergy

      I had some water from a stream in Wyoming once that was truly flavorless. It was just wet, otherwise nothing. Other than that, every tap water and every bottled water is totally different. Glad I had the experience of true nothingness once in my life. It does exist.

      1. re: coll

        That sort of reminds me of the water I had at Glacier National Park.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          good way to catch giardia. Not Advised for People At Home. (except if the stream's been tested).

          1. re: Chowrin

            Mine was from a stream running through my BILs yard, been in the family for 100 years or more. I trusted him when he said "Drink this"! And glad I did. But don't worry, I watch Survivor Man and know the drill.

            1. re: coll

              Doesn't matter whose property the stream was running through, there were deer and beavers and heaven knows what else upstream, creatures that carry giardia.

              1. re: EWSflash

                Just lucky I guess! That was in the mid 1980s, when I was young and carefree...I'll have to ask him sometime, maybe it was from a spring?

        2. re: coll

          When my son was young, we were having dinner at Grandma's house in a different state than ours. He took a drink of his water, and then said "This water tastes glassier than ours".

          It did, too. I never would have thought to describe it that way, though.

        3. re: eclecticsynergy

          Distilled water, for sure. (Bottled spring water doesn't count, nor does tap water.) Also vodka without added flavorants.

          1. re: John Francis

            I knew it wouldn't take long for someone to post that vodka has no flavor. That is entirely incorrect. Anyone who has tasted more than one brand of vodka (and that includes me) can distinguish different tastes between brands, if not actually identifying the brand. And, it only takes a single sip to know that vodka is not water.

            1. re: Virginian

              Agreed. Vodka is generally my hard drink of choice and I'm picky about the brand. Water, not so much.

              1. re: Virginian

                People can also tell the difference between water from different sources, but that's because of of the presence of elements besides H and O. I believe that's also true of vodka, which if it consists only of water and ethanol after being distilled, has no flavor that I can detect.

                1. re: John Francis

                  Really? You actually can't taste the ethanol? I certainly can.

                  1. re: Virginian

                    Me too. I have not yet experienced anything without flavor. I quite like the taste of jicama, tofu and water chestnuts not so much.

            2. re: eclecticsynergy

              I'd go along with the distilled water (freshly distilled straight from the still, that is) being the baseline for neutral "taste".

            3. Pure water is flavorless.... it has no chemicals that your nose or tongue can detect.

              1. Icicles, and one of my old girlfriend's cooking, and tofu.

                15 Replies
                1. re: Veggo

                  Tofu has flavor. I love eating plain tofu, but there are certain brands that I don't like for plain use because they have such a distinct flavor difference from my preference. Those ones are still enjoyable in other preparations though.

                  1. re: Tovflu

                    OK, I'll move on to jicama, which is as flavorful as waterlogged styrofoam. I'll save water chestnuts for later.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      Ah, jicama! I'd forgotten that one. We may be in agreement there, right down to the'waterlogged styrofoam.'

                      1. re: Veggo

                        Jicama is not flavorless.. It's slightly sweet and is a great addition to salads. Its texture is not like styrofoam, but more like a fresh, crisp apple.

                        1. re: cheesemaestro

                          You are right. I'm spoofing a bit. I was trying to imagine the most visually unappealing meal - maybe baked cod or halibut, boiled cauliflower, jicama salad with water chestnuts and tofu, mashed potatoes, all served on a white plate. Horchata for beverage, tapioca for dessert. But it would be a tasty meal.

                          1. re: Veggo

                            Only needing some raw,unsalted zucchini ribbons to up the anti,flavour or looks

                          2. re: cheesemaestro

                            Also agree re jicama. It *definitely* has a taste and great texture.

                            Cooked jicama is a prominent ingredient in various SE Asian dishes. Malaysian popiah (YUM!!) to me would be unimaginable without jicama.

                            1. re: huiray

                              I have to say my experiences with jicama has been limited. The most recent time I can remember having it was raw from a salad bar selection and it struck me as tasting like extremely pure water.

                              I've never had it cooked though. Does it retain it's stiff texture/structure after cooking?

                              1. re: Tovflu

                                To an extent. It becomes somewhat limp/softened but still has a slight crunch. A common way to prepare it is to shred or julienne into strips (after peeling the corm, of course), somewhat like what I imagine you might have had on that salad bar. Cooking times affect the final result. The sweetness becomes more noticeable on cooking. Of course, it is often cooked w/ seasonings added as well so obviously the "natural" taste is no longer the only taste in those cases.

                            2. re: cheesemaestro

                              Jicama is not flavorless, but it is about the closest that a food can come, that i have ever had.

                              1. re: TroyTempest

                                Well, I can summon up the flavor and taste of jicama ("sar kot") in my mind quite easily.

                            3. re: Veggo

                              Agreed! Jicama tastes like crunchy water.

                            4. re: Tovflu

                              I'm not sure if Tofu has flavor. I can't get past the appearance (gray) and a slight sickening smell.

                              1. re: sueatmo

                                Gray?

                                I don't know any type of tofu that is GRAY in color, except certain types of preserved fermented tofu after it has been exposed to air and oxidation has occurred - when it could HARDLY be said to be tasteless.

                                In any case, I agree with the poster above that tofu does indeed have taste. (Let alone different kinds of texture) Different preparations of tofu have different tastes too. I think millions and millions of people also consider that different types of tofu have different tastes, too. ;-)

                            5. Well, we would not eat flavorless food, would we? Unless we were starving and desperate for any calories at all?

                              If you have ever eaten old iceberg lettuce, you know that food can come close to being flavorless. Plain Minute rice comes close too, having only mouth feel going for it and only a very slight flavor.

                              1. "Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity." ~Voltaire

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                  If Voltaire had been my age when he turned that phrase, he would have included bowel movements along with eating and drinking as pleasurable necessities.

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    For information, the book where that quotation appears ("Les Adorateurs, ou les Louanges de Dieu") was published when Voltaire was 75. It claims to be a translation of another book by a certain "Monsieur Imhof", but I'm not sure what to make of that.