Updated: Jan 10
Internation Flavour Trinities.
While I was in China I fell in love with the elusive Sichuan peppercorn. The taste combines bitter, citrus and heat, not spicy hot though. It's a culinary experience like no other - it gives a peculiar tingling sensation that literally numbs your tongue! It would have been reassuring to know in advance that nothing alarming was going to happen only no one spoke English in the market. Thankfully I only ate one peppercorn so the episode lasted but a few minutes.
I've been mixing my own Chinese 5 spice for years but had never considered the one special ingredient on its own. The electrifying Sichuan peppercorn sets the stage for balancing big spice with pungent aromatics creating the mouth-numbing goodness of this sophisticated spice blend. Many of us have an international palate but have you ever wondered why certain ingredients connect us to the ethnic foods we love?
It’s because of the trinities of cuisine. In cooking, an aromatic trio establishes national flavour foundations for sauces, soups, stews and stir-fries which the personality of the dish is built on. Cooking specific vegetables, herbs or spices in fat releases their flavour infusing them into quintessential flavour bases. The culinary trinity is the cornerstone of flavours that give that typical, instantly recognizable taste.
You’ve probably heard of the most classic French trinity of carrots, onions and celery called Mirepoix. And perhaps the most notorious Creole trinity of green pepper, onions and celery called Cajun Holy Trinity. But do you know of the less common Spanish trio of garlic, onion and tomato called Sofrito? Here are other globally accepted cooking trinities with classic dishes: Africa: western - chili peppers, onion and tomato in dende oil. Jollof Rice
Brazil: coconut milk, onion and malagueta pepper in dende oil. Moqueca
Louisiana: Cajun holy trinity – onion, bell pepper and celery in corn oil.
Gumbo & Jambalaya
China: northern – scallion, ginger, and garlic in sesame oil. Peking Duck Sauce southern – chili, Sichuan peppercorn and white pepper in sesame oil.
Kung Pow Sauce
Cuba: sofrito – garlic, bell pepper and Spanish onion in olive oil. Ropa Vieja
France: mirepoix – onion, carrot and celery in butter. Beef Bourguignon
Greece: lemon juice, garlic and oregano in olive oil. Souvlaki
Hungary: paprika, garlic and onion in lard. Goulash
India: garlic, ginger and onion in ghee. Korma
Italy: soffritto – northern – carrot, onion and fennel in olive oil. Minestrone
– southern – garlic, tomato and basil in olive oil. Sorrentina Sauce
Jamaica: garlic, scallion and thyme in coconut oil. Callaloo
Japan: dashi, mirin and soy sauce (trinity sauces, not necessarily cooked together). Indonesia: garlic, ginger and scallion in sesame oil. Satay Sauce
Lebenon: garlic, onion, lemon juice and in olive oil. Baba Ganoush
Mexico: ancho, pasilla and guajillo chili pepper in corn oil. Chili Colorado
Portugal: refogado – onion, garlic and tomato in olive oil. Caldeirada
Spain: sofrito – garlic, onion and tomato in olive oil. Paella
Thailand: galangal, kaffir lime and lemon grass in coconut oil. Tom Yum The point of knowing the culinary trinities is not to reduce a cuisine to an ingredient cliché but instead to be able to recognize where many of our most-loved defining flavours have originated. I suspect that for some of you, reading this list may give you a few "ah-ha" moments as you realize how certain ingredients connect the ethnic foods you love the most. It can serve as a guideline for stocking your pantry; if you love to cook Thai or Greek, you'll know which ingredients to keep on hand. Santé