Cooking up a Storm

11/8/2013 3:49:09 PM
written By :   Chitralekha Print
Last modified on Friday, January 24, 20142:57 PM

Sesame oil is an important ingredient in Asian and Middle-Eastern cuisine. It is used either as a cooking medium or as a flavouring agent. The different varieties of the oil taste different, and are used for different purposes. The darker the oil, the more pronounced the flavour, usually.
In India, sesame oil is used for frying as well as in pickles, where it acts as a preservative. In the far-east, it is used as a dressing, vinaigrettes and in marinades, more than for actual cooking. As a rule of thumb, the lighter varieties have a higher smoking point, and so can be used for deep frying food, while the darker types have a lower smoking point, and are more suited for sautéing, stir-frying and drizzling over food.
Apart from taste, sesame oil is valued for its dietary properties in the Far East, particularly as a post-partum energy booster.

Pickles ( India )

Sesame or gingelly oil is the most important, common ingredient in pickles, especially those made in south India, as it not only contributes its own unique flavour but also contain sesamol and sesamin, which are natural preservatives.
Each region has its own specialty pickles, even though the main ingredients may be the same - mangoes, limes, gooseberries, chillies, ginger, garlic, and sometimes even meat and fish.
The vegetables are usually chopped into bite sized pieces, then either cooked in hot sesame oil along with spices, salt and other ingredients like ginger and garlic, or else, tossed in cooled sesame oil which has been tempered with mustard, cumin and fenugreek seeds, asafotida, red chilies, chopped ginger and garlic and curry leaves, and flavoured with ground spices like red chili, fenugreek and turmeric, and of course a lot of salt.
These pickles are then stored in clean, air-tight glass or ceramic containers, and keep well.

East Asian and Middle Eastern Cooking

In Japan and China, sesame oil is widely used. Though the toasted variety is generally preferred, and therefore it is not a common medium for actual cooking, in Japan, tempura is usually deep fried in sesame oil to give it its distinct flavour. It is also generously used in Japanese dipping sauces.
It is sesame oil which gives that finishing touch to Chinese stir-fries.
Korean food too uses a lot of sesame oil, mainly in stir fries and as drizzles.
In these styles of cuisine, sesame oil is usually added towards the end of the cooking process.
The Asian nations consider certain foods 'hot', some 'cold' and others 'warm', and prescribe diets for various ailments, conditions and seasons based on this. Following this yardstick, sesame oil is considered 'warm' in the East, and this, when added to its nutritive and other benefits, makes it an essential ingredient in post-partum diet. The Chinese chicken in sesame oil and rice wine is a particular favourite with new mothers.
In Egypt and the Middle East, sesame seeds and sesame oil have been widely used in cooking from very early days. Ancient manuscripts and other records document its use. It was used by both royalty and the Bedouins. In modern times too, it is a must-have on the kitchen shelf.

Last modified on Friday, January 24, 20142:57 PM

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