As Indians, we both love and hate oil. Most of the things we love to binge on are fried and unhealthy, but then again we can’t imagine life without Wada Pav and Samosa either. We use a lot of oil in a lot of the dishes from our own country, but also eat a lot of oily stuff from other countries. KFC and McDonald’s have both made fortunes from selling almost exclusively fried stuff as food. Asian food has a lot more to use oil for than just cooking and fry though.
Sure, you have dishes like tempura and a lot of katsu (cutlets), fried vegetables, meats and cheeses. That’s all an integral part of their food culture for sure, but here’s something really cool. They use oils to flavour food. Not just cook in them. What am I talking about? Well, ramen is a dish that’s incomplete without exactly this type of oil. To make a full bowl of ramen, you need to first pour in some aroma oil, then a concentrated “tare” that flavours the bowl, then stock made out of the ingredients of your choice. Without even one of these, ramen won’t have the same taste.
In fact, aroma oils are supposed to be exactly why a bowl of ramen is so inviting and delicious. The smell of ramen is equally important to the taste. It really needs to draw you into the bowl. So why stop there? You can use these oils in a multitude of ways. Personally, we love to use them with plain white rice and some “furikake” (rice seasoning). It’s the quickest meal with absolutely zero cooking. We even use it in our rice when we make curry.
Here are some aroma oils that are pretty famous:
Mayu- Black Garlic Oil. This is something that goes against whatever people teach you about cooking. The garlic is slow cooked until it’s burnt and sticky and then blended together with
other oils until it reaches a bitter, but a delicious taste that invites you to have more with each bite. This is most commonly used in ramen
La-yu- Chilli Oil. This is spicy oil that has a few other tastes that deliver a level of complexity and depth. It isn’t just spicy and brings a lot to the palate and to the food you’re eating.
Sichuan Peppercorn Oil- Sichuan chilli oil. This one is Chinese and packs a punch. The Chinese peppercorn oil is very strong and offers decent spicy, but has more of a pepper punch than a chilli punch.
Scallion Oil: This is an oil that is made using the greens of spring onions and frying them in oil until the flavour is infused into the oil. Great refreshing taste that’s milder than the chilli or garlic oils.
Anchovy Oil: As a vegetarian myself, I can’t comment on the taste, but it is supposed to be pungent and strong, lending a very “fishy” taste to food. It really helps boost the umami in dishes.
Schmaltz: Another famous ramen ingredient, made famous by Ivan from Ivan’s Ramen. He used schmaltz in his ramen to add chicken fat on top of the bowl and it was something that
everyone loved. The schmaltz is blended with oil to make a mixture that is much more than just chicken fat.
Those are the most common oils that are used in foods as a dressing and keep your eyes open. You might see one or two of these oils popping up in our store! Maybe it’s just the thing you’re looking for.