An Abridged List of Aromatics

Below is the figure depicting the four types of cooking aromatic categories (where an aromatic is any spice, herb or aromatic vegetable) and their maximum suggested ratio of use. The ratio expresses the dominant aromatic category compared to supporting categories. For example, if savory aromatics are dominant, the ratio of use is generally four parts savory aromatics to a maximum of one part of each of the other categories by weight. Note that this is merely a rule of thumb and not a hard rule, applying to dry ingredients only and not to fresh ingredients which contain a varying degree of water.

A Guide to Spice Blending

The status of spice knowledge in the Western world has been entirely flabbergasting. The fact that no one in the West—in print or in person—has yet provided anyone else with so much as a theoretical framework around which to base a rigorous spice blending technique is shameful. It is, after all, not just important which spices you add to a dish, but also in what proportions. To date, everything where spices are concerned is entirely ad hoc; literally, chefs standing around, tasting their dishes and thinking, “I guess this could use a bit of clove.” I’ve searched and there is literally not much more available than lone chefs guided by vague tradition and his or her own subjective taste.

The Cheap Tricks of Delicious Cooking

Although cooking great food is really about science, art and intuition, cooking really good food often isn’t much more than collecting a handful of what I call cheap tricks. A cheap trick is generally some sort of exceptionally useful cooking technique or rule of thumb that I’ve uncovered during my culinary journey. It’s cheap because…

A Dichotomy of Seasonality: Two Taco Recipes

I like to think of tacos in two camps that follow seasonality: Fresh and rich. Fresh is synonymous with summer and involves the best produce and lighter flavors. Rich comes with winter and is deeply flavored and hearty. Below are two examples of such seasonal tacos.

A Brief Introduction to Tacos

Tacos are a complicated game and what separates the bad from the good from the truly exceptional is going to basically turn on three things, by my view: The tortilla itself, the overall balance of tastes and what I call “mindful contrasts” within the taco filling and between the filling and the tortilla. What I…

Three Soup Recipes: A Practical Education on Balance

Soups from across East Asia are universally delightful treats and what I miss the most from my travels there. Although they often differ in the specifics of how they’re prepared, they generally start with animal bone broth; share the same base aromatics of onion, garlic and ginger; include a bit of picante and some form of umami. Really, this breaks down to making a bone broth (below, I use chicken but virtually any livestock bones will do), infusing the base aromatics and then finishing the broth for nuance.

Wu Xing: Your Guide to Balanced Taste

The traditional Chinese conceptual framework of Wu Xing (五行), which roughly translates as “Five Elements” and is rooted in Taoist philosophy, has not only influenced East Asian cultures across China, Japan, Korea and throughout Southeast Asia, but has been applied to seemingly disparate fields of study including, but not limited to, traditional forms of medicine,…

Getting to Know Your Gut Or: How to Eat Better So You Don’t Die Early

To some extent, you could be forgiven for not knowing more about your microbiota, which has been best defined by researchers writing for the journal, Scientist, as “the ecological community of… microorganisms that literally share our body space.” In total, an adult human has roughly 100 trillion microorganism cells making up his or her microbiota. That…

The Modest Potato: Our Forgotten Friend

The appeal of potatoes has seemingly eroded over the last few decades. Once considered a savior of the working class, today the potato is credited with their undoing. With obesity and diabetes rates soaring, especially among working class people, the potato in all its processed forms is seen as a villain. To some extent, this…

A Simple Guide to the Potluck

From the holidays to summer parties, potlucks are a common practice to easing the burden of hosting large groups of people. Given that so many people are either incompetent cooks, thoughtless jerks or just plain lazy, often potlucks end up with too many chips, dessert and cheap beer and not enough genuinely delicious food. Be…

What To Eat & Drink In San Francisco

The following are some casual eateries and bars that I enjoy the most when in San Francisco. It strikes me as more or less easy to find information on fine dining, but finding places like these takes a bit more dedication. Enjoy!

Everything You Need to Know About Garlic

Long ago, my mom used to tell me that you could make just about anything taste good with enough garlic. As with many things, my mother was exactly right. Today, when my friends come to me for cooking advice, I often tell them not to cook with garlic entirely. After all, you can’t really be…