I find myself asking that question when I cook. Sometimes it seems like cooking and cooks can get rigid in their approach to the use of ingredients. Food is one of the few things where experimenting seems almost magical. For many chefs/cooks certain pairings just seem taboo, and certain techniques seem foreign, but I pose the question…”Why not?” When you release yourself from the rigid normalities of cuisine you open up a world that has fewer restrictions, as well as an imagination and creativity that just keeps on flourishing. But why is it only when I am in the comforts of my home that I have the confidence to do and make anything that I want to, but when other cooks are around I can clam up and over analyze my reasoning for maybe my use of dairy and or beer with a braise? I just haven’t gained the confidence yet. Will I ever? I’m working on that.
Alchemy of cooking and cuisine…there is quite the science behind it but beyond that its the unexplained feeling of when a cook can smell what is brewing in that pot, to have the ability to manipulate each ingredient in the most organic way, it becomes really exciting and doors spring wide open as if there was a breakthrough! The use of spices and herbs is part of that magic! When I cook for my client he allows me to experiment with various herbs and spices. My favorite breakthrough moment has been learning to make my own curry paste. I love extracting and adding different flavor components realizing that through mortaring and smelling each individually or as a collective, there is enormous crossover and influence in this example it’s as simple as adding galangal and kafir lime leaves to make an Indian paste into a Thai one.
Which brings me to MOMOs. Nepalese dumplings that my client has craved, the Chinese influence as well as the use of the rich Indian spices, made me realize just how important and magical this spice route journey was to the modern cook. The hand pleating technique used was the same that I have seen in Chinese Shanghai style dumpling shops. The tomatoey sauce that accompanies the dumplings is also really exciting. It’s use of Cilantro, vinegar, chilies, soy sauce and tomatoes nearly floored me, fresh, and savory just like a sauce my Vietnamese mother once made to accompany beef. It peaked interest for the overlapping of cultures and countries that border one another.
I was my dad’s little nugget and my mothers blooming flower. My journey includes a little more blooming and blossoming.