Learning to taste and developing a palate

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by someday, Apr 17, 2005.

  1. someday

    someday

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    Any advice on how to learn about developing my palate so that I can balance flavors better and recognize ingredients in dishes and sauces better?

    I can do it somewhat, but I was just wondering if there were any techniques I can do that will help train it...or is it more of a question of experience?

    ~Someday
     
  2. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

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    I'm a long-time home cook. I think I've developed a pretty good palate with Western and some Asian cuisines, but I'm trying to do the same thing you are with Indian/South Asian cooking. Here's what I'm doing about it:

    1. Hang out here! Read, use the search button to find older discussions, and ask concise questions.
    2. I'm lucky to have a Penzey's Spices store nearby. I went there and spent a long time with a knowledgeable spice merchant.
    3. I'm shopping for cookbooks. My top choice right now is Suvir Saran's cookbook.
    4. COOK. Taste, adjust, ask more questions.
    5. I'm also visiting a couple of good Indian restaurants in the area to learn the spice and flavor palettes of the cuisine.
    6. I'm retiring soon, and plan to take cooking classes as the opportunities present themselves. This cuisine is tops on my list.

    For me, this will work. Give some thought to the best way you learn and do your own exploring. I'm sure the professionals will have great insights to add to the comments of an enthusiastic amateur.

    Good luck!
     
  3. anneke

    anneke

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    Read Culinary Artistry by the Dornenbergs.

    Go out there and experience all types of cooking; it doesn't have to be a pricey meal. When you taste, first decide whether or not you like it. If you do, the cook probably did a good job at balancing the flavours, so ask yourself: do I taste sweetness? saltiness? bitterness? sourness? which ingredient does this taste come from? Keep the menu close to you when you're dining. When you're at a loss, it might come in handy and give you hints as to the ingredients you're looking for. If you're really curious, ask. The servers will be happy to find out information about your meal, particularly if you enjoyed it.
     
  4. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

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    Anneke's suggestion reminded me of my restaurant log. When on culinary adventures, I take a little notebook and write down what I saw, smelled, tasted, liked and disliked. I've asked waitstaff questions, some of which were answered by the chef. Sometimes I pick apart dishes to see what ingredients I can discover. You learn best with experience; a book can help but can't do the whole job of teaching your palate.
     
  5. redace1960

    redace1960

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    mezz that is brilliant. what she said.
    plus-the first thing you need for a good sense of taste is a
    good sense of smell. if you smoke, have sinus issues or eat
    a lot of dairy your sense of taste and smell will both be
    compromised.
    a good way to learn spices is to make teas, but just to smell.
    a dry spice doesn't taste/smell the same as one moistened in
    the cooking process and teas give you a sample preview of the
    note that will be added to your food.
     
  6. chinds85

    chinds85

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    redace... That makes me wonder what dill tea would taste like. It sounds like a good method. A lot of how I learned to cook involved developing my ability to emulate dishes that I have eaten. I love attempting to cook something based off of taste and visual memory. It's an adventure every time, and never turns out badly.
     
  7. pgram

    pgram

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    Set up a test in your own kitchen. Get several types of salt, sugars, spices, olive oils, vinegars, etc. Taste each one (clean your palate with water before going to the next). Does idodized salt have the same taste as kosher salt or gray salt? What part of your tongue is reacting to the salt?

    Each ingredient is different and affects different parts of your tongue--even same ingredients (i.e. idodized salt, kosher salt or gray salt). Learn what affects what part of your tongue. Smell has a part in this, but smell is only a part. If all sugar tasted the same, all salts tasted the same, etc. there wouldn't be different kinds of each of these items on the market. By trying different things (spices, salts, sugars, herbs, etc.) at home, you can learn/teach yourself how to differentiate subtleties between ingredients.

    Conducting tests in my kitchen has helped me quite a bit. Hope this helps!