This man has more taste than I originally believed.
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Diary and Notes
I had a really frightening dream last night and if anyone can decipher it, I will be very happy. Now there were these seven fat cows and seven... No there weren't, it actually went like this. I was in an Indian restaurant and waiting for my food. Along came the waiter and placed a huge plastic tray in front of me and began serving up chicken tikka and sheek kebabs straight onto the tray without any plate. The tray was quite dirty, so this didn't cheer me at all. He then proceeded to eat half the food he was serving me. Also, when I tried some of the chicken tikka it was horrible and I realized I had gone off curry. There was some other wierdness with a pond and people from work, but I don't think these are relavent. Any ideas?
On to today's nosh: I am assured by my friend Antonio that Mexicans don't eat fajitas. Fajitas are Tex-Mex and nothing to do with authentic Mexican cuisine at all. As such, all those adverts for 'authentic Mexican Fajita Flavour' are telling fibs. Also, all those adverts claiming to give you a good fajita from their little yellow packets are also telling fibs. I've seen the adverts, they look dry and unappetising. Slightly better are the bubbling, sweet, fajitas you get in American style restaurants, but even these aren't that great. The restaurant variety is more about theatre, where they come along and place a little plastic bib around your neck to prevent your clothes from being splashed when your body vomits up the sickly mess five minutes later. However, I do like fajitas in a conceptual way (that sounds pretentious, doesn't it?) and make them now and again based on an all important rule of cooking: Don't use what you think other people use, use what you think will work well. As such my fajita recipe may seem a little odd and definitely not the sort of thing a Mexican mother would serve up to little Juan on his birthday before they smash the pinata. It is however a foolproof and tasty combination, not unlike the diner experience. (They are probably using very similar ingredients to the chemical laden allergy inducer I'm recommending below anyway.) I am however using pork, I've never made pork fajitas before but they were delicious.
Now for the science bit.
Think back to biology classes back when you were a nipper. No, not those ones you dirty minded lot. I want you to remember the one about taste buds. I am almost sure that when you were taught about taste buds it went something like this: There are taste areas on the tongue and certain taste buds which detect for certain things are only found in certain areas. These taste buds are; Sweet, Sour, Salt, Bitter. This is complete rubbish. Firstly, taste buds are not organised as you were told. Every taste bud can detect all the tastes, they just become a bit specialised. Taste is also not confined to specific areas, this is a myth. But most importantly from a foody point of view, a complete sense of taste, Umami, is ignored.
"Umami? You're having us on mate!"
No, it's true. It was discovered in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda. We all have a taste sense called umami which detects even the very tiniest amounts of glutamaic acids. Your umami receptors are far more sensitive than the others, by a factor of about 10,000 and what they really do is let you taste meat cooked together with fat (sorry you vegetarians). It's the 'savoury' sense and is why meat cooked on the bone is so delicious, glutamaic acids. So I come to the reason for this lecture. MSG. Due to a health scare in the sixties known as 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' people got the impression that MSG was harmful in some way. Modern food critics rail against this evil 'chemical' mainly through ignorance. It is in reality no different than adding salt or sugar to your food, a direct stimulation of one taste sense. There is no evidence whatsoever that MSG causes any harmful side effects, if it did, the amount in processed foods would make just about every American and British person as sick as my poor old Mexican grandmother Consuela just before her liver op. Even though there is no medical evidence for this, many people still claim that hypersensitivity to MSG causes them to get symptoms after eating a Chinese meal. The symptoms are generally very similar to what occurs in people who eat too much sugar, though nobody is going to blame the poor sugar, even though refined sugar is a chemical which our bodies would not normally encounter in the wild (as with pure salt), is not very well prepared to deal with and is abundent in Chinese food.
So armed with this knowledge I am not ashamed to put a pinch of MSG in some things I cook. If you're making Chinese food it's essential and it is with something like this. Only a pinch mind, those umami receptors are very good at their job. Oh, and you can buy MSG at any Chinese or Asian grocers, it's a lovely white crystal and is very cheap and lasts for ever.
Ich bin ein Berliner. Well, I had a Berliner for breakfast. It was an iced doughnuts filled with quite sharp plum jam. JFK was a doughnut, wasn't he?
Salsa, see 22/11/2004
Sour Cream, grated cheese, chilli sauce.
Pork steak, onions, green pepper, oil, chilli powder, black pepper, celery salt, cumin , MSG, tomato ketchup, soy sauce, hoi sin sauce, fresh lime juice..
Chop the pork, onion and green pepper into thin strips. Get the frying pan good and hot and toss the pork in, keep moving. After about three minutes it will probably be swimming in the salt water that the processors have squirted in to preserve it, if so, when you think that all the water is out,drain off all the water (tip the pork into a sieve), wipe the frying pan with some kitchen roll and add a dash more oil. Put the pork back in along with the sliced onion, chilli powder, celery salt, cumin, a pinch of MSG and a good grind of pepper, fry until the pork and onions are turning brown. Add the green pepper a dollop of ketchup, a dollop of hoi sin, a splash of soy sauce some lime juice and a little water. Stir well to make sure everything it coated. Leave to bubble just until the sauce is at a consistency you like. Bring bubbling hot to the table.