You're all kale-d out, you've had it up to here with golden milk, and you're on the prowl for the next superfood. Well, get ready for some unicellular goodness: the next superfood is an algae named Spirulina, also known as Blue Majik. (Kudos to the marketing exec that came up with that, am I right?)
Koji is a culture made up of a certain fungus (mold) called Aspergillus oryzae, which has been used to ferment rice and soybeans in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean kitchens for centuries. Koji can actually have other involved fungi, but Aspergillus oryzae is the most common, and therefore the names can be used interchangeably. Its end purpose is to enhance the flavor of items like soy sauce, sake, and miso.
Even if you haven't heard of ube (pronounced "OO-beh"), you've probably seen pictures of desserts made with this brilliant purple yam.
If you think that "pawpaw" is just an affectionate name for your grandfather or a cute way of talking about your cat's feet, you're missing out on one of the most interesting fruits out there.
You might be familiar with the use of zucchini blossoms in cooking and maybe even know how to make herbal simple syrups. But if you really want to show off as someone who knows how to use flowering plants in food, try adding some flower water to your cooking/baking repertoire.
Tahini: it sounds like the name of a high-end fashion designer... or perhaps a variation on a two-piece swimsuit. But this "weird ingredient" is actually a delicious and nutritious paste made from toasted sesame seeds and oil.
A no-carb, gluten-free substitute for breadcrumbs. Sounds and probably tastes like cardboard, right? Unless you're talking about Pork Dust. Yes, you read that right. Pork. DUST.
If you've ever turned on an episode of Iron Chef or Top Chef, chances are you've seen a contestant in gloves and goggles, yielding a canister that looks far more fit for a chemistry lab than for a kitchen. Wonder what's in the canister? Liquid nitrogen, the go-to tool/ingredient of molecular gastronomy, and one of the trendiest items in many gourmet chefs' kitchens.
I was a vegetarian from age 6 until age 23. When I started eating meat again for the first time in 17 years, most people I knew (including me) expected me to be pretty conservative about it: chicken breasts, hot dogs, and all the other "basic" meats that everyone loves.
When you go to the grocery store, chances are you're confronted with the usual piles of apples, berries, bananas, and melons. All well and good, right?
Flowers may be beautiful, but they're not usually appetizing. Sure, nasturtiums are hip in fancy restaurants, but they're primarily used as a garnish. Granted, fried squash blossoms are incredible, but the point remains: flowers are usually reserved for looking at, not masticating.
When you think of bivalves, such as manila clams and oysters, you tend to think of the meat as being nicely tucked in the shell. Anything else would be scary, right?
Fiddlehead ferns look like something from Alice in Wonderland, or something that you might see when you close your eyes while listening to Pink Floyd and enjoying some herbal refreshment. What they don't look like is a tasty vegetable that's perfect for any spring or summer dish. Yet that is exactly what these bizarre spirals are. What Are They?
When I was younger, my best friend's dad would always give us a lollipop on long car rides. I remember three things about those lollipops: they were bright green, tasted delicious, and had a cricket in the center. You know, like a Tootsie Roll Pop... only instead of a Tootsie Roll, a cricket.
Mother Nature's creativity is infinite, especially when it comes to fruit. We've got black sapote, which tastes like chocolate pudding, and Buddha's hand citron, which looks like Freddy Kreuger's digits merged with a lemon. How could she possibly top herself?
I have a thing for citrus in any form. If I can't get a hold of oranges or clementines, I've been known to slice up lemons and limes and eat them straight with a little bit of salt—terrible for the tooth enamel, but amazing for the tongue.
Even the most unadventurous eaters can usually be coaxed to take a bite of an exotic fruit (except, perhaps, the notoriously stinky durian). After all, fruit is sweet, juicy, and filled with natural sugars.
Eating flowers is a time-honored culinary tradition, from nibbling on nasturtiums to grazing on candied violets. And why not? They look beautiful and lend a unique floral flavors to salads, desserts, and anything in between.
I have a thing for black foods, whether it's mysterious, lovely black garlic (the secret to its color: fermentation) or adding charcoal powder with its reputed health benefits to cookies, cakes, and breads.
Fish is a remarkably useful ingredient, whether you eat it as is or use fish sauce to give your recipes extra depth and flavor. However, if you enjoy a glass of Guinness on occasion, you might be surprised to know that there's most likely fish in that beverage, too.
It's an unspoken rule that diseases are not things that you want to purposely consume. So if anyone ever offers to cook you something made out of a disease, just kindly say no... unless it's huitlacoche.
There are tons of greasy drippings that can be used to flavor up any dish, but none will ever be more delicious than animal fat. The bigger and fatter the animal, the juicier and tastier their fat is. For those of you who have had your fill of bacon-anything, here's your next obsession. It's called caul and its very existence will divide those that are serious about their animal fat flavoring from the pretenders.
Mother Nature is one creative entity, especially when it comes to fruit. Let's face it: most major supermarkets stock only the most common fruits like apples, pears, and grapes, but they're so basic. Why not explore other options, from the stinky-yet delicious durian to the captivating citrus caviar that is finger limes?
While honey is one of the most popular ingredients on kitchen shelves the world over, honeybee pollen is still a relatively rare find in most households. It's not hard to guess why: eating pollen just sounds weird... it would probably sell a lot better if it had a more appetizing name, like honey. Furthermore, it looks unlike any other common ingredient, and the smell can be off-putting to some. But it's good, it's healthy, and it's altogether pretty awesome!
We're big champions of exotic and surprising ingredients, but we'd be the first to admit that they're not necessarily for everyone, especially people with timid palates.
Hops have always been known as the driving force behind beer, but now they're starting to grow their own culinary wings. Slowly but surely, this bizarre and bitter plant is showing up on more and more menus across the country as it catches on as a trendy and up-and-coming ingredient. What Are Hops?
Sushi aficionados and Simpsons fans alike know all about the joys of fugu. Known also as blowfish, it's reputed for being tasty if sliced from the correct part of the animal and many even say they experience a "fugu high" after eating the fish. Alas, if you have an unskilled chef, fugu is famous for being deadly.
Those ordinary green zucchini you see in the market are hiding a lovely, delicious secret: Actually, all summer squashes produce these delightful blooms, but the zucchini's are most frequently used for eating since they taste the best: fresh, clean, and zucchini-like, but with a little something extra. They used to be a rarity at supermarkets, so you had to have a garden or a gardener friend who would generously share the bounty with you.
One of the best things about talking to other people who love food is that they point you to weirdly beautiful ingredients, like this: No, that's not an escapee from Middle Earth you're seeing. It's one of Mother Nature's best attempts at making fractals come alive into a golden spiral: the Romanesco (sometimes called fractal broccoli, broccoflower, or Romanesque cauliflower). Here's another view: So Just What Is It & What Does It Taste Like?
I grew up eating Korean, Japanese, and Chinese food, but it wasn't until college that I experienced Thai and Vietnamese cooking. Once I started, I couldn't get enough of these cuisines. The dishes had an incredible richness and savor that I couldn't identify, but whatever it was, it made me want to keep eating.
Cooking with animal blood is as old as civilization itself. I promise that your ancient ancestors, no matter where you're from, didn't have the luxury of throwing away any part of the animal, including the very lifeblood that used to run through it. Animal blood, along with everything but the skin, would invariably end up in the stew.
Freekeh is the next great supergrain that you might not have heard of yet. According to nutritionists, it comes out on top compared all to other grains, with more protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a lower glycemic index.
Mushrooms are glorious: they're nutritional powerhouses, add meaty savor to just about any dish, and are cheap and plentiful (mostly). But just when you thought you knew best how to use edible fungi (in gravies, as portobello burgers, stewed and served over pasta, just to name a few uses), you learn something new: there's a mushroom out there that tastes like maple syrup. Yep, maple syrup.
Charcoal is a famously prized substance when it comes to food and drink. Grilling aficionados swear by it, and its purifying properties make it the main ingredient in Brita filters (and its alternatives).
I have a weird fondness for the texture, if not the taste of Velveeta (and Kraft American cheese slices). No other cheese has quite the same amount of slip or smoothness and manages to stay that way, undoubtedly because Velveeta contains sodium alginate, an algae derivative that helps it stay so silky-smooth even as it heats up. It also contains a high level of protein-to-fat ratios, which is what makes it a champion melter.
Marmite: either you love the stuff or hate it. ("Love" meaning you are British and grew up eating it, and "hate" meaning you are everyone else.)
I've known eaters who will fearlessly bite into the hottest peppers, but even they have quailed before durian, the fruit that hails from Southeast Asia and whose smell has been compared to garbage, rotting flesh, and the bathroom post-use. However, this hefty globe with its spiny, prickly outer covering isn't called "the king of fruits" for nothing. According to its many fans, its stench does not correlate to its taste, which has been described in extremely flattering terms. Monica Tan of The...
Finger limes are one of those foods that bring out the little kid in even the most staid grown-up. I dare you not to squeal when you cut one open, squeeze, and see all that bubbly goodness emerge.
Like cigars and whiskey, Lapsang Souchong tea is an acquired taste. Some people never get over the pungent, tarry flavor and intense smell of the beverage, but using it as a rub, marinade, or other seasoning is totally smart. The tea adds a smoky yet not overwhelming flavor to dishes of all kinds. With it, you can easily get barbecue-like results for meats and vegetables, all without breaking out the grill. Lapsang Souchong tea smells like a dry campfire and tastes like a smoked sausage cooke...
Garlic: almost every cuisine in the world considers it a staple, and for good reason. Its pungent flavor gives depth and character to food. Dishes made without it seem bland and forgettable. And on top of all that, it's been studied for its potential anti-cancer properties (and don't forget: it's been mythologized for warding off vampires).