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Traditional, flavourful cooking fats

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 

So I'm starting this thread because more and more I'm beginning to get a sort of an aversion towards the almighty ''cooking oil''. I mean the super-refined, tasteless, odourless, dull, tedious and just plain boring so-called vegetable oil - be it sunflower, canola, rapeseed, peanut or whatever. Don't get me wrong: I've got nothing against these oils in their virgin form. I actually have virgin peanut oil in my cupboard and it's fantastic. However, its possibilities as a cooking oil are a bit limited, comparable to butter (given its not-so-high smoke point of 160°C).

 

When cooking European dishes, my aversion is not a problem since traditional cooking fats of Europe are well known to me - olive oil, butter (mostly cow's milk but also other, e.g. sheep's milk in parts of Greece) and rendered animal fats (mostly pork, but also goose, duck, chicken, lamb, beef). I simply believe in using a cooking fat that has its own flavour, like lard to cook a paprikás. It's a huge difference, especially if the lard is rendered at home.

 

But if I want to cook some Chinese or Indian meal, most cookbooks tell me to use vegetable oil. And that happens to be exactly what I don't want to use - a boring, tasteless fat. No, thank you. It's quite possible that most Indian households have started to use these vegetable oils, but given the fact that refined oil is a relatively new thing and especially so in rural parts, it can't be a traditional cooking fat. In fact, many households here in Slovakia have ceased to use lard (and render their own), the traditional cooking fat here, and have switched to vegetable oil. Well, it comes as no surprise that the results just aren't that good. And another thing is that before WWII vegetable oil was practically unknown here, at least in rural parts.

 

It is well known that people of Bengal and surrounding regions have traditionally used mustard oil. People of the southernmost states (like Kerala) have used coconut oil and maybe even sesame seed oil. In the north, ghee is the fat of choice. So what about the rest? Does anyone know? Does anyone know about books that deal with this issue?

post #2 of 2

I use a variety and I mix-n-match for flavor.  Extra virgin olive oils from different areas have different flavor.  I like extra virgin coconut oil for somethings it adds a nice flavor.  Never forget good old bacon, drippins', duck fat, goose fat, etc that I render.  Ghee is good for some things as well. 

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