Chef Roger Mooking is known for his experimental cooking techniques, discovering unique flavor combinations in his inventive recipes. Distinctive ingredients are the focus of his cooking show Everyday Exotic, so I asked Mooking for a few ingredients that, in his opinion, are underused in home kitchens. Find three of his favorite flavors below to incorporate into your repertoire.
Star Anise is named after the shape of the ingredient — it looks like a little cinnamon-colored star. The flavor is a mix of cinnamon, clove and anise. It is very popular in Chinese cuisine, crushed to a powder or used whole to infuse flavor in soups, hot pots, and stir-fries. It is also a common ingredient in many Chinese 5-spice blends, lending a complex deep flavor profile.
I love using star anise because I grew up with it in my parents’ pantry as a staple item. The flavor always adds a little something special to many dishes — even addomg extraordinary flair to a common dish.
I like to use all parts of coriander: the seeds, dried and ground for spice mixes, and the fresh plant (also known as cilantro) for herb blends, chutneys and chopped fresh atop finish dishes. A very common ingredient in tropical cuisines, it is popular in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and Mexican cuisines, to name a few. Coriander shows up in many of my recipes to add a bright herbaceous note to almost any dish. It is a staple in my produce artillery.
Depending on where you get it from, 5-spice powder may include between 5 and 8 different spices. The most common blend includes star anise, cinnamon, clove, and Sechuan peppercorns, although a few secret spices often creep into the mix depending on the manufacturer. The flavor is round and full with a slight aromatic sweetness. It is best used sparingly, as the flavor is quite pronounced.
Often it is used as a support flavor for the complex flavors of soups and stews. 5-spice works particularly well with duck and is often found in Chinese duck dishes. One of my favorite uses is to add just a little bit of the spice to desserts to replace or supplement cinnamon for added complexity.